Elderly care home residents with dementia are being left bed-bound, incontinent and sedated because they have been “all but abandoned by primary care”, claim providers.
A survey of care home managers by the Alzheimer’s Society and care home umbrella body Care England found more than two fifths felt the NHS was not providing swift access to vital services like physiotherapy, continence and mental health services.
“It’s unacceptable that this NHS double standard is leaving people with dementia waiting months”
Examples of delays reported by care home managers include one resident who said she was suicidal waiting more than two months for a referral to mental health.
Another resident, who had surgery for a fractured hip, had to wait more than a year for follow-up physiotherapy in the community.
Meanwhile, mangers also reported residents having to go without continence aids, with examples of people waiting as long as three months for the right products.
“The government and NHS must act to ensure that these services are available to everyone when they are needed”
Other instances of poor practice included GPs not coming out to care homes and insisting on doing consultations over the phone, and residents being refused out-of-hours GP appointments in their care setting.
The survey of more than 285 managers in England found 44% did not feel the health service provided residents with dementia with adequate and timely access to secondary care services. Meanwhile, 45% reported this was the case when it came to mental health services.
The survey also revealed one in five care homes 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 Alzheimer’s Society maintained this money would be much better spent on one-to-one care for people with dementia
“People with dementia living in care homes are just as entitled to receive free care from the NHS as anyone else,” said chief executive Jeremy 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,” he said.
“It’s unacceptable that this NHS double standard is leaving people with dementia waiting months for physiotherapy, incontinence and mental health services,” said Mr Hughes.
He added: “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.”
The research was conducted as part of the charity’s Fix Dementia Care campaign, which is calling for equal access to NHS services for people with dementia in care homes.
It includes urging the government to help support and improve district and community nursing services in care homes.
Currently, many people living with dementia in care homes – and the staff who look after them “are being all but abandoned by primary care”, claimed Care England chief executive Martin Green.
Professor Martin Green
He said GP practices charging care homes for standard primary care services that should be free to all was a longstanding problem.
“We have called for years for this practice to be put to a stop, and for care homes and residents with dementia to be more visible and equal in the eyes of the health service,” he said.
Mr Green added: “Older people living with dementia in care homes have the same rights to primary care, health and support as any other citizen, and the government and NHS must act to ensure that these services are available to everyone when they are needed.”