A government health adviser has warned that older people are being moved unnecessarily into nursing homes where they do not have adequate healthcare.
Professor David Oliver, clinical director for older people at the Department of Health, said not enough effort was being made to tackle “perfectly reversible, treatable problems”.
Speaking to the House of Lords select committee on public service and demographic change, he said when older people entered homes, access to certain treatments was worse than “you might get in prison”.
“Certainly, when older people are in health services, primary care or secondary care, they need a proper diagnosis, they need proper assessment, and currently we are failing to address reasons why they are becoming immobile, or becoming dependent, and writing them off,” he said.
“We are normalising disability and frailty in older people when often it is reversible; that is a real cultural challenge for the professionals.”
He said there was evidence that common problems associated with growing old were “relatively neglected in primary care” and that older people got “much worse treatment” than somebody who was middle-aged with the same condition.
“Why are people going into care homes, and why is there so much variation? Partly it is to do with capacity locally, but many people who have perfectly reversible, treatable problems like immobility or confusion are not having proper investigation of those syndromes, and sometimes end up going straight from hospital beds into care homes because they have not been properly assessed and we have not done everything we can to try and get them better,” he said.
He added that support around medication, GPs, rehabilitation, chiropody and dietetics was not being delivered adequately in care homes.
“It is probably worse access than you might get in prison, for instance, and that is something that we have to sort out,” he said.