Community nurses working in Scotland are being encouraged to look out for tell-tale signs that their patients may be at risk or have become the victim of financial scams.
Many nurses have already highlighted concerns about people in their care being vulnerable to criminals seeking to make financial gains through fake moneymaking schemes.
“It is clear that criminals are increasingly targeting lonely elderly citizens to financially scam”
Nine out of 10 community nurses who replied to recent survey thought that vulnerable patients in their care were at risk from so-called scammers.
The new survey conducted by the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland (QNIS) reveals 91% of those asked believed “some” or “many” of their patients were at risk of being defrauded.
Only 8% believed they were already fully equipped to help prevent financial scams, with 93% of respondents saying they wanted to be better informed and more prepared.
The figures, contained in a survey of 289 community nurses, were revealed ahead of a seminar in Edinburgh looking at safeguarding those at risk of “financial abuse”.
“We simply cannot ignore this problem it is of a vast scale often hidden away but has devastating consequences”
The event, which took place yesterday, aimed to raise awareness of how health and social care leaders could engage more fully in effective multi-agency efforts to protect vulnerable adults. It will also explore how to help victims deal with the consequences for their health and wellbeing.
Representatives from Police Scotland, Age Scotland, Action on Elder Abuse and Trading Standards were among the speakers.
The QNIS noted that a significant amount of work has been done on the issue already by the National Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work and Professional Practice at Bournemouth University.
Professor Keith Brown, director of the centre, discussed his experience at the seminar, highlighting the potential of community nursing and social care teams to play a crucial role in safeguarding.
He received funding from the Burdett Trust for Nursing to develop resource materials to support frontline staff, with the QNIS agreeing to raise awareness of this resource in Scotland.
“Community nurses can identify the early warning signals of financial abuse and explore what’s true with the people in their care”
The centre’s latest toolkit, designed specifically for community nurses – and titled Safeguarding practice for those at risk of financial abuse from scamming – has been published this week.
Professor Brown said: “It is clear that criminals are increasingly targeting lonely elderly citizens to financially scam.
“These are yours and my relatives and neighbours and the impact of being scammed is devastating for these victims,” he said.
He highlighted that community nurses were “critical in this area as they are often the only formal professionals visiting the elderly in the community”.
“The training resources we are launching today are designed to help community nurses spot and identify those at risk of being scammed and to ensure they know what steps and actions to take to support their clients,” he said.
“With £10 bn of fraud committed per year in the UK we simply cannot ignore this problem it is of a vast scale often hidden away but has devastating consequences,” added Professor Brown.
Clare Cable, chief executive and nurse director of QNIS, said: “Most victims of financial abuse can ill-afford the monetary loss, and this can mean insufficient money for rent, food, bills and other necessities.
“These losses can adversely affect physical and mental health” she said. “Community nurses can identify the early warning signals of financial abuse and explore what’s true with the people in their care.
“They may either signpost sources of help, or (if warranted) alert safeguarding teams, the police, and trading standards,” she said. “Nurses are well-placed to help people whose wellbeing has been harmed by scamming.
Ms Cable noted that safeguarding from and responding to financial abuse was an “important aspect of holistic community nursing care”.
“Community nurses are increasingly aware of this need and equally keen to learn more,” she added.