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Lawyer calls for reform to protect vulnerable elderly clients

Care quality has declined: Elderly are neglected, left in bed for days, seldom washed, dehydrated, and malnourished

2 June 2015

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Reported instances of neglect in care homes are on the rise with one expert lawyer urging for government reform to protect patients.

Handley Law say council services are being pushed to breaking point, with the government cutting overall spending by up to 6.4 per cent.

Lawyers at the firm say that the knock-on effect for care services is potentially devastating and, as life expectancy increases, the firm has voiced concern over the situation getting worse.

Policies and procedures are not always adhered to and Handley Law has reported that cases of medical neglect and abuse in care homes are on the increase, a fact outlined by a number of high-profile cases reported in the British media in recent years.

Last year, BBC researchers found nearly 15,000 complaints were received about abuse and neglect in care homes after they contacted 152 town halls in the first investigation of its kind.

In addition, a government survey from 2013 found that almost 50 per cent of those relying on carers to perform basic washing duties said they did not feel as clean.

The survey also found that a third of adults receiving care feared physical harm or abuse. One in ten voiced concerns that they did not receive enough food or drink.

Dr Victoria Handley, the director of Handley Law, said that the prevention of care home neglect is of critical importance.

'For anyone entering into care it is likely to be their only home until their demise. It should be secure, warm, caring, and safe. Instead, the elderly are neglected, left in bed for days, seldom changed or washed, dehydrated, and malnourished,' she commented.

'We see high volumes of cases regarding medical neglect. Some 1,800 older adults living in nursing homes die each year from fall related injuries and those who survive frequently sustain a permanent disability. In 2012, more than 1.4 million people aged 65 and older lived in nursing homes. This is only set to increase.'

The introduction of a controversial new bidding scheme which sees councils auctioning off individuals to the lowest bidder is further exacerbating the decline in care quality, according to Handley Law.

The firms says care homes are being forced to slash costs, leaving staff over worked, underpaid, and in some cases, potentially under-qualified to deal with the complex needs of patients.

Handley Law says it is seeking reform to protect the vulnerable and ensure a proper level of care is provided, with stronger regulations against abuse and neglect.

'[Since] the Care Act 2014 [came] into force, there is now an emphasis on the local authority promoting the individual's well-being,' added Dr Handley.

'On that basis, the Act should strengthen access to what should be better quality care. However, there is more to be done and only vigilant families with the help of experienced solicitors have the power to address abuse and neglect and protect the elderly.'

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Vulnerable Clients