Springingtiger's Blog

Care Home Cuts – Patients Suffer.

In the last week we had the disturbing Panorama investigation of patient abuse in the Winterbourne View care home, and now the announcement of up to 3000 staff cuts by Southern Cross who run a chain of care homes. I don’t care what any one says, if you cut the numbers of care staff in a care home you cut the quality of care.

I used to work in a psycho-geriatric hospital, which – as is the general rule – was understaffed and under funded. Caring for the disabled and elderly is very labour intensive and it is hard to see where cuts could be made without damaging patients. Where I worked the patients were not subject to a regime of abuse, but they were frequently not treated as well as they should have been. In any care facility there are periods of concentrated activity interspersed with less frenzied periods and it is in the frenzied periods when patient care suffers. We had one patient who repeatedly slid from his chair onto the floor where he would scream until lifted back when he would immediately do it again, he would often be left lying and screaming until we had finished a round of tasks, simply because we had neither the time nor numbers to accommodate him. No patient should have to be left on the floor, patients should not be left unattended on the commode, but it happens. Staff should not be left in a position where they have to choose whether to pick a patient off the floor or to attend to an unstable patient on the commode, whenever you cut staff numbers you compel staff to make choices between patients. If you have three staff on a ward and a patient has to be bathed that leaves only one to deal with the rest of the patients. A minimum acceptable level of care is somewhat below how we would wish to be treated, no one should have to sit in their own filth until it is their turn to be attended to – perhaps because all the staff are engaged in serving a meal within a limited time – their need is immediate.

Even with the best will in the world and with the most committed carers, economics does impact patient care. If you do not have enough carers to meet the patients needs they can not be met. The disabled, the elderly and the infirm are the most vulnerable of patients, they are also the least glamorous and the least well-funded, but that does not mean they are any less deserving of care. The care of the vulnerable should not be dependent on economics, any profit made by these homes is made at the expense of the patients. It is time that every penny spent on patient care goes to caring for patients. There may be a place for commerce in medicine, but the vulnerable should not be subject to exploitation. The care of the disabled and elderly is the one field above all that should not be left in the hands of those whose primary goal is profit rather than care.


2 Comments so far
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If you have an assessed need by law your needs have to be met. But we seem to be dictated to by targets and not law.

Comment by Casdok

In this country people’s needs are only met if allocated resources allow and the proportion of those resources allocated to paying shareholders’ dividends does not go on patient care.

Comment by Springingtiger

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