January 31, 2011

UK: Care homes should not represent a death sentence

. LONDON, England / The Daily Mail / Debate / January 31, 2011

By Harry Phibbs

The analysis of death certificates of care home residents exposes an appalling record of neglect that will make all decent people angry.


Between 2005 and 2009 667 elderly people died of dehydration and another 157 died of malnutrition. 1,446 died suffering with bedsores. MRSA killed another 579 and Clostridium difficile 1,349. These are the superbugs that thrive where standards of cleanliness are not maintained.

With chilling cynicism Joseph Stalin said: ‘The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.’ It is important to remember that each and everyone of these painful, avoidable care home deaths represents a scandal.

Neglected: Shocking figures highlight that over 600 care home patients died though hydration between 2005 and 2009 - and over 150 of malnutrition


It should also be remembered that many of those who went to the care homes did so after having their savings virtually wiped out. This is money they might have hoped to pass on to their sons and daughters.

Anyone who has saved £23,500 or more is not given any state funding at all for a care home place. So those who need care have to fund it from their savings or sell their home.

Labour's approach to the failings of care homes was to load on more bureaucracy. The Care Standards Act 2000 brought in lots of box ticking regulations. It forced the closure of hundreds of homes whose layout didn't match their pedantic standards.


For instance, if a room was 14.0 square metres instead of the 14.1 specified then the person living in it was forced to move out. I'm sure it was well intentioned but meanwhile the real problems got worse.

Other care homes, which have huge amounts of state funding, have continued despite terrible abuses.

Compared to 1997, when Labour took over, we can see they presided over a doubling of the number of deaths linked to dehydration. There were seven times as many deaths involving superbugs.

Tragically the number of deaths due to negligence is far higher even than the figures released this morning shows, for instance deaths through failure to provide the elderly with the medicine they need at the correct time.

Part of the answer is to keep to a minimum the number of elderly people being sent to these homes. There should be more support and encouragement for people to remain in their homes and to be looked after by family members.

The Government has promised that by April 2013, every eligible person requiring care will have the right to get a personal budget from their council, preferably in the form of a direct payment that can be used to buy the services.

Of course in some cases the elderly will want and need to be in residential care. The feasibility of looking after them in their own home will have been exhausted. In that case the care homes they are placed in - at a cost up to £800 a week - should be accountable to the taxpayer for whom the bill adds up to billions.

The Government has made greater transparency a priority. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Before the elderly are placed in a care home we need to know a lot more about whether it represents a death sentence.




































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