Care home managers unhappy with level of care given by the NHS to people with dementia
An Alzheimer’s Society investigation has found that almost half of care home managers feel the NHS isn’t providing residents with dementia adequate and timely access to vital services like physiotherapy, continence and mental health services. This had led to instances where people have been left bed-bound, incontinent and sedated because the health service is too slow in responding to their needs.
The investigation, which is part of the ‘Fix Dementia Care’ campaign, involved a survey of more than 285 care home managers in England conducted jointly by the Alzheimer’s Society and Care England, as well as first-hand testimonies of carers of people with dementia living in care homes.
It also found that one in five care homes surveyed were being wrongly charged by GP practices for services that should be free on the NHS – up to as much as £36,000 a year. The total annual cost of GP charges to care homes is estimated to exceed £26m.
The Alzheimer’s Society says it is concerned that people with dementia, who like any other tax payer have funded the NHS, are paying again to see a GP through their care home fees, or being denied timely access to services. The society says the money that care homes are spending on GP services – that are free on the NHS to all those living in the community – could be much better spent on one-to-one care for people with dementia, the average GP charge of £12,191 a year being enough to fund care for a person with dementia for nearly six months. Care home managers told the Alzheimer’s Society that:
- On access to mental health services: “A resident who was saying she felt suicidal had to wait over eight weeks to be referred to mental health services.”
- On access to physiotherapy: “We had one person who fell and had a hip fracture. Physio follow-up in the community took over a year.”
- On access to continence services: “Residents have to go without continence aids, leaving them isolated, with no dignity and low self-esteem.”
The investigation cited examples of long waiting times and lack of local services. This included people with dementia in care homes:
– being prescribed pain relief over the phone for a broken collar bone;
– being prescribed the wrong drugs as a result of a GP’s insistence on conducting consultations over the phone;
– waiting three months for continence products;
– being restrained under an emergency Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard due to a lack of mental health care;
– waiting a year for physiotherapy following surgery; – being refused an out-of-hours appointment in their care home by a GP.
Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes said these practices contravened the NHS Constitution, which states that everyone, regardless of who they are or where they live, should have access to the NHS services they need free at the point of use.
“People with dementia living in care homes are just as entitled to receive free care from the NHS as anyone else,” said Mr Hughes. “A care home is, after all, a person’s home and health services must treat care homes as a vital part of the community, instead of holding them in disregard.
“It’s unacceptable that this NHS double standard is leaving people with dementia waiting months for physiotherapy, incontinence and mental health services. In that time we are concerned they’re being robbed of essential care and pain relief, as well as their dignity, self-esteem and independence.”