Thousands of elderly and vulnerable patients are being illegally restrained by staff in hospitals and care homes, according to the care watchdog.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) warns that carers and nursing staff are ignoring laws which state they must apply for approval before depriving patients of their liberty.
But there is a “worrying” backlog of nearly 20,000 cases awaiting approval for a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard, and staff may well be restraining patients anyway as they wait for paperwork, the watchdog said.
Care home staff go to councils and hospital staff to the NHS with the applications, nearly half of which are turned down.
There were nearly 53,000 applications in the first six months of 2014/15, a seven-fold increase compared to submissions for the entire year of 2013/14. The huge rise followed two court rulings which stated individuals could also be deprived of their liberty in foster care and sheltered housing, as well as hospitals and care homes.
“The vast majority of people working in hospitals and care homes are decent and dedicated to their profession. It’s such a shame they are “propping up”, to the best of their ability, a system overcomplicated, oversubscribed, overwhelmed and long overdue a new direction.”
Care of the elderly is in a state of “calamitous, quite rapid decline”, a leading charity boss has warned, with hundreds of thousands fewer people receiving care than five years ago.
More than £1bn has been slashed from councils’ social-care budgets in England since 2010, despite an increase in the elderly population, meaning thousands who would have received help with basic tasks such as getting out of bed or taking medication no longer get support, AgeUK said.
Caroline Abrahams, it’s director, said the cuts were also harming the NHS, with hospitals struggling to discharge patients quickly into home or community care – a major factor behind the extreme pressure faced by hospitals this winter.
The problems of “exit block” leads to delays in admitting patients from emergency departments, because beds are taken up by frail elderly people waiting for a community-care package. It is believed to be a major factor contributing to this winters’ 10-year highs in A&E waiting times.
AgeUK said the number of older people receiving home care has fallen by a third since 2010, while places in day-care centres declined by two-thirds. More than 40 per cent fewer people receive equipment and adaptations such as rails and stairlifts.
Just under 9 per cent of over-65s – 850,000 people – receive any support from councils, down from well over a million five years ago.
The Department of Health, said that, in total, an extra £1bn had been given to local councils to help to protect social-care services this year, adding that councils were responsible for determining their own budgets.
The Government is to give £25m to 65 councils where delays in discharging elderly patients from hospitals are the most severe.
“The Department of Health puts back £1.1bn into c0unty councils when so much damage has already been done by savage cuts to funding. It’s a bit rich.”
One of the main reasons there is such a crisis in hospitals is that a large number of elderly people are occupying beds because they can’t be sent home.
And the reason they can’t is that the home care system is collapsing.
There is terrible pressure on carers which leads to them having almost no time to spend with people in desperate need.
Gillian Demet has turned whistleblower because she thinks what is happening to care needs to be exposed.
She tells how she had just 15 minutes to look after each of her clients – 15 minutes in which she might, typically, have to get someone out of bed, undress them, wash them, dress them, make their breakfast, give it to them – and then dash off to do it all over again. And she worked 14 hours some days for the minimum wage.
Yet Gillian’s main concern isn’t the pressure she was under but the impact on her clients.
Incredibly, her boss at private care firm Sevacare, Ravi Bains, agrees with her about the inadequacy of the service. He says such short visits are unfair on carers and those they are looking after.
Mr Bains is just as forthright in saying where the blame lies – with government cuts.
The amount spent on home care has plummeted by 25 per cent since the coalition came to power and will fall much lower if the Tories win the election.
David Cameron’s big campaign pitch is that we can’t afford to spend more. On the contrary, Prime Minister – we can’t afford to spend so little on some things, with home care at the top of the list.
This is an appalling way to treat the most vulnerable, needy pensioners.
“All of our health and care sectors are in crisis now – what on earth the future holds is anyone’s guess – but be prepared, it looks certain to get worse, if it ever gets better – ‘Care in the Community’, what was that?”
I was asked recently to suggest some products disabled and elderly people had found useful for everyday living tasks. One of them was a big button phone.
Using the telephone to communicate with family and friends is of great importance, especially if you live alone and are housebound. If you find it difficult to use an ordinary phone because of vision, hearing, memory or dexterity impairments there may be a big button phone to help you.
There are big button phones with safety features such as panic and emergency alarms.
Some phones have picture buttons for memory and cognitive impairments.
For people with severe hearing difficulties there are phones with a strobe light alert and pillow shaker to indicate an incoming call.
Although the specification given of the phone below makes it quite expensive, there are variously priced models with features giving assistance.
The big button phone shown enables, in an emergency, the user to press an SOS button on the pendant or main telephone. The unit then dials the five selected contacts (family/friends) for help until a response is received. If the first number is busy (or on voice mail) it will dial the next pre-programmed number. When the call is answered an emergency message is played, then, two-way conversation is possible through the panic button or hands free on the telephone. The phone has a powerful hands free speakerphone for hearing issues, two direct memories, one SOS button and 10 two touch memories as well as the big buttons to assist with sight and dexterity impairments.
Consider a big button phone if you are disabled, elderly or have a friend or family member who is.