Care Services Failing The Elderly, Doctors Tell BMA

THE vast majority of doctors believe care services for older people in Wales are not good enough, according to a report out today.

More than 90% of doctors surveyed by the British Medical Association (BMA) said not enough money was being spent on NHS care for the elderly, while 85% said they were concerned about healthcare services for older people, figures which led the BMA in Wales to describe the problems as “widespread” and “worrying”.

According to the report, which covered England and Wales and was contributed to by 24 Welsh doctors, the biggest area of concern was the lack of services available in the community, with only 8% feeling that activities provided in residential and care homes to maintain mental and physical agility were adequate.

This was despite the fact that almost nine out of 10 doctors said mental agility services, as well as physical exercise and social activities, were crucial to overall patient wellbeing.

Meanwhile, 68% of doctors said staffing levels in residential and nursing homes were not appropriate, with 78% saying this was a key priority that needed to be addressed.

The study also found that 62% of doctors thought there were not enough services to support people with dementia, while only 34% said older people had continuous access to podiatry services to look after their feet.

And 83% of doctors did not believe there were adequate respite facilities to support carers.

Dr Richard Lewis, the BMA’s Welsh secretary, said: “Carers do an incredibly important but undervalued job which can often have an adverse affect on their own health.

“So it is sad to see how widespread a problem this is, particularly in conjunction with the worrying findings in the survey about the level of services available for elderly patients.”

Dr Helena McKeown, chairwoman of the BMA’s committee on community care, said: “It is disgraceful that care services are so chronically underfunded.

“People deserve to have an old age that is fulfilling and dignified. At the moment I don’t feel a lot of them are getting that.”

The findings are particularly worrying in Wales where there are proportionately more older people than in other parts of the UK, and the numbers are increasing.

Currently 22% of the population of Wales is over 60, but in 20 years’ time it is estimated that will rise to 29%, according to Ruth Marks, the Commissioner for Older People appointed in January.

And fears of a fresh care homes crisis in Wales were raised last month after the NHS raised nursing care funding by a paltry 39p per patient per day, leading experts to warn that nursing home places could be lost and more elderly patients could become stuck in hospital.

Charlotte Potter, senior health policy officer at Help the Aged, said: “While this survey is deeply disappointing, the results will not come as a surprise to older NHS patients.

“There are deep-rooted negative attitudes and behaviours towards older people and these are at the heart of failure to provide decent services for them.”

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment on a report that we have not had a chance to study in detail.

“However, the health minister had a meeting with the BMA last week and they did not raise these issues with her.”