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Andy Jones: Elderly as deserving as young

It is claimed that thousands of elderly care home residents are at risk of regularly receiving the wrong medicine from staff.

It is claimed that thousands of elderly care home residents are at risk of regularly receiving the wrong medicine from staff.

The findings of the Commission for Social Care Inspection found that nearly half of all care homes in England fail to meet minimum standards. Issues highlighted included bad record keeping, staff with poor language skills and inadequately trained staff.

It is estimated 200,000 elderly residents live in these allegedly failing nursing homes. In other words, 5,000 out of 11,500 care homes across the country are implicated. Statistically this means a home near you. Often the culprits are well-known.

I don't wish to seem negative but it is difficult to see what has been achieved since the National Care Standards Commission report in 2004. 'Significant deficiencies' were identified then and progress has been 'disappointingly slow' since, according to the new report.

The number of nursing home places and facilities has shrunk dramatically in recent times. With one exception, major insurance providers have abandoned nursing home care insurance. BUPA pulled out of the pre-funded care market in 2003 and others, such as Lifetime Care, are revising their policy and premium agreements to reduce huge liabilities.

Thirty-five per cent of new residents in homes have dementia with chronic and increasingly expensive care needs. There are examples of married couples being separated by local councils due to a loophole in the human rights Act which bizarrely does not cover private sector care homes (Paul Burstow, the LibDem MP, is sponsoring a private member's Bill extending the rights of older people).

Previous reports have levelled criticism at GPs, accusing us of prescribing chemical coshes for misdiagnosed early dementia.

So all in all it's a pretty woeful picture.Many nursing home care teams lack even basic first-aid training. Liam Byrne, the care services minister, has announced training and vetting of 750,000 care workers. It is a terrible indictment that so many are deemed to need it.In nursery education it has been recognised that both state and private providers have struggled to recruit adequate staff and retain them.

The Department of Education is now making available a grant close to £8,000 per nursery to ensure each has a senior nursery nurse trained to a suitable diploma standard. Surely it is time for the NHS to insist that a qualified nurse is employed in every care home to ensure adequate supervision and standard of care?These are certainly the views of Professor Sir George Alberti, the emergency care tsar, who states that every care home should employ a full-time NHS nurse.

Not only would this improve medication compliance but residents would get more regular check-ups with consequently lower emergency admission rates.

What's right for children is right for old people too.

Dr Andy Jones is a GP in Stamford, Lincolnshire

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