An Alzheimer’s Society investigation has uncovered that almost half of care home managers feel the NHS isn’t providing residents with dementia adequate and timely access to vital services like physiotherapy, continence and mental health services.
This has led to instances where people have been left bed-bound, incontinent and sedated because the health service is too slow in responding to their needs, the Society says.
The investigation, which is providing information for the Society’s Fix Dementia Care campaign, involved a survey of over 285 care home managers in England conducted jointly by Alzheimer’s Society and Care England, as well as first-hand testimonies of carers of people with dementia living in care homes.
It also revealed that one in five care homes surveyed are being charged up to £36,000 per year by GP practices for services that should be free on the NHS.
The total cost of GP charges to care homes is estimated to exceed £26 million a year.
Alzheimer’s Society is concerned that in their hour of need people with dementia, who like any other tax payer have funded the NHS, are paying again to see a GP through their care home fees, or being denied timely access to services.
The money that care homes are spending on GP services – that are free on the NHS to all those living in the community – could be much better spent on one-to-one care for people with dementia. The average GP charge of £12,191 a year is enough to fund care for a person with dementia for nearly six months.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society suggests that the NHS is discriminating against people living with dementia in care homes. “People with dementia living in care homes are just as entitled to receive free care from the NHS as anyone else. A care home is, after all, a person’s home and health services must treat care homes as a vital part of the community, instead of holding them in disregard,” he said.
“It’s unacceptable that this NHS double standard is leaving people with dementia waiting months for physiotherapy, incontinence and mental health services. In that time we are concerned they’re being robbed of essential care and pain relief, as well as their dignity, self-esteem and independence.
“With 70% of care home residents living with dementia, we’re urging everyone to get behind our campaign to transform the second-class service that many receive,” Mr Hughes urged.
Alzheimer’s Society’s Fix Dementia Care campaign is calling for:
- An end to GP practices charging for providing access to a standard primary care service that should be free on the NHS
- The Government to enforce the NHS Constitution so people with dementia living in care homes have equal access to NHS services
- The Government to support improvements in the availability of district and community nursing in care homes so people with dementia receive better care, closer to home and reduce pressure on primary and secondary care
Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, which worked with Alzhiemer’s Society on the report, said: “Our research and report with Alzheimer’s Society identifies that many people living with dementia in care homes, and the care staff who are responsible for their care, are being all but abandoned by primary care.
“Sadly, this charging has been going on for far too long: we have called for years for this practice to be put to a stop, and for care homes and residents with dementia to be more visible and equal in the eyes of the health service.
“As the Health Select Committee has recently recommended, access to primary care must be improved. Older people living with dementia in care homes have the same rights to primary care, health and support as any other citizen, and the government and NHS must act to ensure that these services are available to everyone when they are needed.”
In January, GPs at a conference organised by doctors’ trade union the British Medical Association voted in favour of withdrawing free surgeries for care home residents. The conference heard that GPs want the right to opt out of their responsibility to care for highly dependent patients living in care homes.