Vulnerable elderly people are facing “filthy” accommodation in care homes, a new investigation reveals, with residents left in squalid conditions, dressed in other people’s clothing and living without exercise for weeks at a time.
The investigation, which was carried out by health and social care advice service Healthwatch, saw 197 surprise inspections at nursing and residential homes across England, with substandard care noted in several cases.
As part of the investigation, Healthwatch investigators reviewed patient access to additional health services, including GPs and dentists. Worryingly, it found that only one facility was able to provide elderly residents with regular access to vital healthcare services — leaving vulnerable elderly residents at risk from ill-health and worsening medical conditions.
Describing the findings as a serious “wakeup call” for the social care sector and its regulators, Healthwatch said there remains a “worrying culture of apathy” within the care sector, with care providers, regulators and healthcare professionals not doing enough to maintain a reasonable standard of quality care.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Imelda Redmond, national director of Healthwatch England, commented that regulators understand that care homes are struggling with cuts to social care services, but added: “Getting the basics right doesn’t have to cost the earth and should be the least we should all be able to expect for our loved ones and ourselves should we need care support.”
The Healthwatch report revealed a series of shocking findings within poorly performing care homes, including cases where residents were forced to wait an hour to go to the toilet, and were left in bed for weeks at a time with the bare minimum of physical activity. The report also logged several hygiene and cleanliness issues, including peeling wallpaper, dirty rooms, rotting plants left on patient’s windowsills, and laundry not being returned to the right person, and later worn by someone else.
Concerns were also raised around specialist nursing homes intended to accommodate dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, with inspectors commenting on a serious lack of awareness of the condition, and the needs of vulnerable people suffering from it.
Jeremy Hughes of the Alzheimer’s Society told the Telegraph that he is “not at all surprised by the findings”, adding: “They testify to the existing issues with staff training across the sector, and echo what our investigation last year found — that one-in-three home-care workers had received absolutely no dementia training, resulting in people with dementia left in soiled sheets, and becoming ill after eating out-of-date food.”
New Report Confirms Substandard Social Care Epidemic
While the Healthwatch investigation did encounter examples of good care at nursing and residential homes in England, the scope of negligent care that remains prevalent in care homes across the country is impossible to overlook — particularly when you consider the other damning reports to have emerged over the past few months.
At the start of July, the CQC published a report which threw into sharp relief the poor state of social care services in England. It found that one-in-three care homes are failing on safety, with falls, drug errors and a lack of resources leaving vulnerable elderly people at risk from negligence and abuse in residential and nursing homes up and down the country.
And less than a week before the CQC report, at the end of June, a survey of 800 GPs revealed that cases of abuse and neglect of the elderly have risen by a third, with health workers voicing concerns that the social care system is “disintegrating”. GPs logged over 5,600 abuse referrals in 2015/16, an increase of a third compared to the previous period — figures described as “truly frightening” by elderly awareness charity, Age UK.
Between reports from Healthwatch and the CQC, and the figures published by the independent poll of GPs, it’s clear that England’s social care system is now at breaking point. Three separate investigations have now confirmed the deep-rooted problems within residential and nursing homes, with vulnerable elderly people facing the burden of substandard care, rising abuse and neglect, and a worrying lack of resources across the social care sector.
Experts from Healthwatch England described their report as a “wakeup call”, but sadly, reports of neglect and abuse of the elderly are no longer surprising. Until greater onus is placed on improving and investing in social care services, cases of elderly abuse and neglect will continue to make headlines — and it’s not yet clear what the government proposes to do to prevent them.
At Hudgell Solicitors, we campaign for the improved safeguarding of vulnerable elderly people, and act on behalf of those affected by negligent treatment and abuse in care homes. To find out more, visit our care home abuse page or contact our team today.