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Abuse of elderly patients by NHS staff rises by a third in one year with a shocking 36,000 offences reported last year alone
00:08 GMT, 1 December 2012
'Cruelty has become normal': Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt highlighted some disturbing cases of abuse by NHS staff
Thousands of elderly and vulnerable patients are being abused by carers and NHS staff, shocking figures reveal.
Some 36,600 offences were reported last year, mainly involving neglect, physical violence or bullying.
And the number of cases has risen by a third in the last 12 months, according to NHS Information Centre statistics.
This could partly be due to heightened awareness among family members and staff in the wake of recent scandals, such as that of the Winterbourne View care home.
But only this week the Health Secretary admitted that ‘cruelty’ had become ‘normal’ in some health and social care organisations.
In a powerful speech, Jeremy Hunt highlighted shocking examples of abuse including the case of a dementia patient being slapped and punched by her supposed carer.
The figures show that there were 25,435 reports of abuse of the over-65s last year carried out by carers or health workers. There were another 11,165 cases in vulnerable adults with learning difficulties or disabilities.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients’ Association, said: ‘This is a sad indictment of society.
‘People are being abused by the supposedly caring professional who is meant to be looking after them.
160 ATTACKS BY PATIENTS A DAY
More than 160 NHS staff are attacked by patients and visitors every day.
There were 59,744 assaults last year according to NHS Protect, which tackles crime in the health service.
In the majority of cases staff were attacked by a patient with dementia or another mental health condition that made them confused or violent.
Nonetheless, Richard Hampton of NHS Protect said any kind of assault ‘would not be tolerated’.
The figures are up by 3 per cent compared with last year.
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said the number of assaults was ‘outrageous’ but added it was ‘encouraging’ that staff felt able to speak out.
‘This practice can’t be allowed to continue. If someone sees abuse they must report it immediately.
‘We must encourage staff to come forward if they have any concerns.’
Nearly 40 per cent of cases took place in the patient’s own home, 33 per cent happened in care homes and the remainder occurred in hospitals or day centres.
Physical abuse was the most common form, comprising 30 per cent of cases, followed by neglect which represented 25 per cent.
Fears: Michelle Mitchell of Age UK says she thinks the real number of abuse victims could be much higher, with many cases going unreported
Others included emotional abuse, such as bullying or taunting; financial, where money was stolen; or sexual abuse.
The figures are based on the number of reports made to authorities by other staff, family members or patients themselves.
Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK, warned that the true figures may be far higher.
She added: ‘Over the last few years there has been growing awareness of the abuse of older people and how to respond and this is likely to have contributed to the increase in the number of referrals to safeguarding boards by English councils.
‘We fear however that there are still many cases that are not reported and would encourage anyone who suspects that an older person is being abused to contact their social services department or tell the police.’
Last month, a report by the Patients’ Association highlighted how an elderly man with dementia had been so neglected by NHS staff he had been allowed to wander off and drown in a river.
Last week Mr Hunt pledged to drive up standards by bringing in detailed Ofsted-style inspections for hospitals and care homes.
At present organisations only have to achieve basic standards and he is concerned there is little incentive for improvement.
The Government is to bring in tough financial checks for care homes to ensure they cannot go bust in the wake of the Southern Cross scandal.
Ministers today announced plans for providers to undergo checks to ensure their finances are intact.