Inspectors have found that one in seven nursing homes is breaching the law, by failing to ensure that elderly residents have enough food and drink to prevent them from being malnourished and dehydrated.
A study by the CQC (Care Quality Commission) found widespread examples of frail and vulnerable people not receiving the proper care and attention at meal times- meaning that many didn’t get sufficient nutrients.
599 nursing homes were visited between October 2010 and July 2011, and 84 fell short of legal requirements. One of the most disturbing cases was that of a seriously underweight patient who was supposed to be on a high calorie diet, but was consuming only two pieces of toast a day. In another case, a patient who required assistance eating was simply handed a spoon.
Amanda Sherlock, director of operations at CQC, said: “The majority of care homes we’ve inspected do comply with the essential standards. However our inspectors have also seen providers where meals are simply placed in front of frail, vulnerable people who are least able to complain, with no attempt to help them eat, until their food is cleared away uneaten. It is completely unacceptable where people have been losing weight alarmingly, yet no attempt has been made to find out why, to offer them adequate assistance or refer them to a specialist for help.”
Katherine Murphy, chief exec of the Patients Association, has called for more atttention to be focussed on basic care. She said: “We are not talking about complex medical treatment, we are just talking about the human rights element of care- help with feeding and drinking, pain relief, assistance to the toilet.”
The CQC has the power to take legal action against nursing homes that fail to meet the required standards. Groups that represent the interests of patients, however, are concerned that it is too difficult to identify offenders in such a vast sector.
Elsewhere, CQC inspectors found an example where a patient had lost 10lb in one month. He was supposed to be given extra snacks in between meals, but inspectors found that he was denied biscuits, even when he asked for them.
Last week’s CQC report into the care of elderly patients (you can read our coverage of the report here) in NHS hospitals prompted widespread concern and has led to calls for staff to act as whistleblowers where they witness unacceptable treatment towards patients.
Written exclusively for The Life Dept | Live Longer | 17 October 2011.
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