You see stories in the news, sadly all too regularly, about care homes are being told to improve by the care watchdog or cases where someone has received terrible care and it is worrying to think that there may be other vulnerable people out there who are also needlessly suffering

420,000 people are currently resident in care homes all across the country and there are as many as one million who receive care services in their own homes. Whilst the majority of care provided to those people is invaluable it is sadly an all too common occurrence where the care given to these people falls below an acceptable standard and harm can come to them as a result of negligent treatment.

Care homes owe a legal duty of care to their patients to meet national standards of quality and safety of living and where neglect of this duty leads to injury, distress and suffering, sometimes worse, we can help those affected to seek compensation.

Cuts to Funding:

The average annual cost of living in a care home is £100,000.00, which is a terrifying figure to be faced with in your later years. Many therefore have to face losing their life earned savings or relying solely on public funding from their local authority.

This is a concerning thought when public funding for care for people aged 65 and over has fallen by a fifth in England over the last 10 years.

Back in 2004 official data showed that £1,188 was being spent per person on care each year but by the beginning of 2014 this had dropped by as much as 20% down to only £951 per person. There are more residents in care homes than ever before and yet the funding just keeps falling. This surely must mean that vulnerable people are being failed by those who do not seem to be taking into account our ever ageing population.

Negative Consequences of Cuts:

Despite funding being reduced the same amount of staff still need to be employed. With unattractive wages and many staff on zero hour contracts it comes as no surprise that the quality of staff employed are naturally going to be of a lower standard. According to the Care Watchdog one in five care homes do not have enough staff to make sure residents get adequate and safe care.

A recent review led by the former care Minister, Paul Burstow has exposed the home care system in England as being close to crisis as a result of the way staff are exploited. The ‘Key to Care Report’ describes how some community care patients were treated by 50 different members of staff in a year because of high staff turnover. Poor pay and working conditions therefore have dire consequences for the vulnerable people they aim to care for. Home care visits are now rushed as a result, some only lasting 15 minutes, meaning that vulnerable people are being forced to choose to either have help to be dressed, to have a wash or to have food prepared for them, which shouldn’t be a choice they have to make.

The report said that “We are probably lucky there has not been a major home care scandal yet..it may only be a matter of time”. This is very worrying for us and for all to hear who have loved ones within this environment. A Care Quality Commission Review at the end of 2014 found in 10 of the care homes within its review residents were in danger of suffering a “serious current or long term impact on their health, safety and welfare”.

Age UK have said that the funding cuts to care services were also one of the major causes behind the growing pressure on A&E departments. Poor care will result in patients being admitted to hospital suffering from injuries caused as a result of a lack of basic care and meeting standards which will ultimately only fall further the less money that is being spent on care services.

Effect on Patients- Occurrences of Negligence

Care home services are ever increasingly strained to their limit. With stretched resources meaning residents are not receiving basic quality of care and attention this can regrettably result in:

  • Avoidable falls,
  • Medication errors,
  • Un-treated infections,
  • Dehydration,
  • Pressure sores,
  • Malnutrition,
  • Avoidable deaths.

We often see risk assessments are all too often overlooked or not prioritised along with a distinct lack of monitoring which could easily prevent incidents of negligence from occurring.

Dementia patients for example find it difficult to express that they are experiencing pain and without qualified staff on duty to recognise symptoms they could be suffering in silence.

How We Can Help:

The medical negligence team at Bolt Burdon Kemp are experienced in dealing with claims arising from injuries sustained as a result of poor care provided to vulnerable patients. Where there has been substandard care resulting in an injury a claim can potentially be bought against the care home owner or the local authority for compensation. We understand that is a deeply distressing when harm is caused by those you put your faith and trust in to care for you or a loved one and we are here to help and support you.

Compensation will not take away the pain and suffering that you or your loved one have had to endure, but it may assist in providing a better quality of life for the person injured and raise awareness to help prevent similar incidents in future. In tragic cases where a death has occurred a claim may help provide answers and recognition of the pain caused both to the deceased and to those left behind