The RNHA has expressed surprise at the way the media interpreted a report suggesting that many care homes were refusing admission to new residents unless they came fitted with tubing to facilitate artificial feeding.
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The Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) said key advice in a report issued by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) on problems associated with artificial tube feeding of patients with swallowing difficulties was at risk of being overlooked because of the confusing way in which the document had been presented to the news media.
Frank Ursell, chief executive officer of RNHA, said “The quotes we have seen in the press do not seem to reflect the wording of the RCP report itself. So it is difficult to fathom out exactly what messages are being put out by the college.
“No figures and details are cited anywhere in the report to back up the claims about care homes imposing such a pre-condition for entry. Nor, on a national BBC radio current affairs programme that asked listeners to name any of the care homes concerned, did anyone come forward.”
He added: “It is worrying perhaps that a highly esteemed body such as the RCP should be relying on evidence that, by its own admission, is ‘anecdotal’ rather than based on validated research. The pity of it is that such an approach may detract from the value of a report which, in other respects, raises some important issues about the efficacy and risks of artificial feeding.
“As an association representing nursing homes, the RNHA supports the college’s recommendation that artificial tube feeding should never be undertaken lightly and that all options for oral feeding should be explored.
“We also agree with the report that good nursing care is extremely important in ensuring that patients with swallowing difficulties are properly nourished and that artificial methods should be employed only if they can be demonstrated to improve the patient’s condition.”
The RNHA says it is disappointed that the report did not make clear that the insertion of tubes through the abdominal wall is a clinical procedure that has to be approved by doctors and is invariably carried out in hospital.
The RNHA is also questioning whether it is appropriate for the RCP to charge £20 per copy for a report which, it believes, should be made available to nursing homes to download free of charge from the College’s website.
Mr Ursell said: “We were very surprised to discover that copies of the oral feeding report were made available free of charge to the news media but that any nursing home wanting a copy will have to pay a fee for the privilege. We hope that the RCP will place the need to disseminate best practice above the need to sell copies of its publications.”