Sadly it’s a fact that increasing numbers of older people are reporting physical abuse and neglect that is happening at the hands of the people who are supposed to care for them. There are plenty of horror stories in the media, recently highlighted by the fresh allegations brought this month against Ashbourne House Nursing Home in Rochdale who made national headlines earlier in the year for abuse of dementia patients who were tormented with therapy dolls. Now whistleblowers have complained that residents are left sat in their own urine and faeces, are not regularly bathed and are often left without adequate clothing.
Jeanette Aspinall, Medical Negligence Partner at Scott Rees has helped many victims of care abuse and neglect over the last few years and she reports that allegations are being made at almost double the rate they were four years ago with a sharp increase in reports to the Care Quality Commission.
It is no secret that the UK has an aging population. According to Government figures, 10 million people in the UK are over 65 years old and the latest projections suggest that these figures will increase by 5 ½ million over the next 20 years.
People are living longer and with that, the demand for healthcare whether it is in the home or in a residential facility, are on the increase. So, how do we protect the elderly and vulnerable within our society? Until the Care Act 2014 came into force on 1stApril 2015, there was no English law that dealt specifically with safeguarding adults who might be at risk of abuse or neglect. Elder abuse and neglect is a crime but unfortunately official data suggests that only 11% of reported cases were passed to prosecutors.
Jeanette has given her views on why, despite introducing the Care Act in 2015, official data is showing an increasing rise of cases of medical negligence, abuse and neglect in the UK’s care homes. She says:
“It is now well-known that the adult social care sector is in crisis due to severe shortages in nurses prepared to work in care homes, poor employment conditions for care workers and difficulty in regulating and auditing a sector largely dominated by private companies.
Although regulation and inspection serve important purposes, we can be doing a lot more as a society to battle this issue as elder abuse is everyone’s problem. Whistleblowers should be encouraged to come forward and be supported when they do and more complaints should be followed up by police. Despite dealing with numerous care home abuse and neglect claims, I have only been involved in one case which involved a prosecution. In 2012 the nurse manager of The Stonedale Lodge Nursing Home in Liverpool was convicted of wilful neglect of my client’s elderly mother and was struck off the register by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. So unusual was it to result in a criminal conviction, the case was reported by ITV documentary: Who cares? Investigating Britain’s Care Homes
Finally, family members need to be vigilant and not frightened to challenge the care their loved ones are receiving. Warning signs of abuse include inadequately explained injuries, bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition, poor hygiene and the victim becoming increasingly withdrawn, anxious or depressed .”
Jeanette and her team at Scott Rees and Co are highly trained to deal with all types of elderly abuse and neglect claims. If you have any concerns regarding treatment you or a loved one is receiving, contact our specialist team for free, confidential advice.