BBC’s Panorama Exposes Poor Care

One member of care staff has been sacked and seven others suspended following a BBC 1 documentary Panorama, ‘Behind Closed Doors: Elderly Care Exposed’ which was broadcast last night.

The undercover filming which took place at the Old Deanery Care Village in Braintree, Essex showed residents being taunted, roughly handled and in one case slapped by a number of care staff. The secret filming took place over 36 shifts and seemed to show residents waiting for lengthy periods of time after they had called for assistance, patient call bells being unplugged and residents being left lying in their own excrement.

Anglia Retirement Homes Ltd who is the operators for the care home stated that the incidents involved a “small number of staff” but that they are “shocked and saddened by the allegations.”

Alex Lee the journalist who conducted the undercover filming said she also saw “many good care workers trying their best” but also saw some staff “mock, goad, taunt, roughly handle and ignore” elderly vulnerable residents.

Commenting on the broadcast Andrea Sutcliffe, the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care said “This programme raises important issues about the quality of care in care homes. The care shown in the Panorama programme is unacceptable. My sympathy goes out to the people affected. I am angry that the good care we know is provided is undermined when people are failed in this way.”

Later this year the CQC are introducing a nationally recognised ratings system for care homes which Ms Sutcliffe is hopeful will strengthen their ability to uncover poor care and to be able to take necessary and quick action when needed to do so.



The Demand for Elderly Care to “Outstrip” Family Supply

It has been predicted that by 2017 the number of elderly people in the UK needing care will “outstrip” family members in a position to provide it. Further to this an estimate in this recent report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests that by 2030 there will be more than two million people in the UK over the age of 65 who will have no family living nearby to support them if needed.

The report suggested a number of actions that need to be taken in the UK if this care gap is going to be filled.

  • Widen the use of “neighbourhood networks”, highlighting those run in Leeds by older people and offering activities to reduce social isolation as well as providing care and support
  • Invest in strengthening community groups in areas with the “weakest record for community-based care”
  • Follow international examples, highlighting initiatives in Germany, Australia and Japan’s 10-year nationwide campaign “to train one million dementia supporters”
  • House public services for different age groups, such as childcare and care for the elderly, together in the same buildings as is done in Germany
  • Strengthen employment rights for carers

Clare McNeil, senior research fellow at the centre-left think tank, told the BBC: “There won’t be the family members needed to provide the types care that people see at the moment. That will mean there is more pressure on social services, and stretched services like the NHS.We need to have a fundamental rethink about the way that we look after each other later in life.” She said the government needed to invest in community networks and make it easier for people to combine care and work.

Also commenting on this report Helena Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK said “our families, society and economy need reliable, affordable, quality care and support services and solid support and rights for those caring to ensure such breakdowns are prevented”.

Advice Challenging Behaviour

Mental Capacity Act ‘not working’

When the Mental Capacity Act, 2005 was introduced its prime intention was to empower and protect vulnerable adults. However, a recent House of Lords Committee report found that in thousands of cases, those who oversee the care of such adults – for instance social workers or health professionals – are failing to correctly implement the legislation and in many cases are barely aware of the Act and the requirements it makes of them.

The Act is underpinned by five key principles: (i) that adults have the capability to make decisions for themselves until it can be proved otherwise; (ii) that a person must be given all practical support to make decisions before it can be shown that they lack said capacity; (iii) that just because a decision may be judged to be ‘unwise’ it should not be seen as evidence that the individual lacks capacity to make it; (iv) that any act or decision made on behalf of a person lacking capacity to decide for themselves, must be in the individual’s best interests, and (v) that any decision made on behalf of an individual who lacks capacity, must be that which least restricts their essential rights and freedoms.

Whilst Lord Hardie, Chair of the Committee, states that, ‘The Act is good and it needs to be implemented;’ he goes on to say, ‘The evidence suggests that tens of thousands of people are being deprived of their liberty without the protection of the law, and without the protection that Parliament intended… Worse still, in some cases the safeguards are being wilfully used to oppress individuals and to force decisions upon them, regardless of what actions may be in their best interests.’

The case of a 21-year-old, Steven Neary of Uxbridge, has been cited as an example of what is going wrong. Mr Neary’s father, Mark, whilst unwell, sought three day’s respite. However, after this period Hillingdon Council, concerned by Steven’s behaviour and weight, took the decision to transfer him to a behaviour unit. It was nearly a year before Steven was allowed to return home. In the interim, Steven’s father felt, ‘helpless,’ and that, ‘I had let him down, lost my own son.’

Hillingdon Council later issued an apology, stating that whilst, ‘Staff were genuinely committed to ensuring that we did the right thing… we need to improve our processes.’

The House of Lords report has recommended that Government needs to ‘draft replacement provisions that are easy to understand and implement, and in keeping with the style and ethos of the Mental Capacity Act.’

Further recommendations include giving the Act a higher profile in training, standards and inspections; that an increase in resources for the Court of Protection would enable non-controversial cases to be handled more speedily; that Government reconsiders the provision of non-means tested legal aid to those who lack capacity, especially in cases of deprivation of liberty and; that the Government review the criminal law provision for ill-treatment or neglect of a person lacking capacity to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

Finally, the Committee has recommended that the Government report back in a year’s time to show how it has responded to the above recommendations.


Advice People Handling

Need to Know – 10 useful things to know if you have low back pain

  1. Ice therapy Putting ice on the painful area can be really useful in the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury because it can help reduce the inflammation. Even though the gut reaction maybe to keep a painful area warm and this certainly feels good because it helps cover up the pain and it does help relax the muscles, the heat actually inflames the inflammatory processes. After 48 hours, you can switch to heat if you prefer. Whether you use heat or ice — take it off after about 20 minutes to give your skin a rest.
  2. Keep moving. Our spines are like the rest of our body — they’re meant to move. You should not refrain from doing your usual daily activities. Continue to do the housework, walk the dog, and drive the kids to school. Once you’re feeling better, regular aerobic exercises like swimming, yoga, cycling, and walking can keep you — and your back — more mobile. Just don’t overdo it. There’s no need to run a marathon when your back is painful.
  3. Stay strong. Once your back pain has receded, you can help avert future episodes of pain by working the muscles that support your lower back, including the back extensor muscles. Having strong hip, pelvic, and abdominal muscles also gives you more back support. Seek advice about the best exercises to do as some exercises can actually put more strain on your back.
  4. Stretch A lot of us undertake jobs that require us to occasionally adopt poor posture. You should get into the habit of stretching in the opposite direction every 20 minutes through your day to relieve the possible discomfort. Many people get relief from their back pain by doing a regular stretching routine, this also helps build up your muscle strength as well.
  5. Think ergonomically. Design your workspace/home space so you don’t have to hunch forward to see your computer monitor or sit twisted to watch your TV. Use a desk chair or home sofa that supports your lower back and allows you to sit as comfortably as possible.
  6. Watch your posture. Be especially careful of your posture when lifting heavy or awkward objects. Never bend over from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from the knees keeping your spine it its natural alignment.
  7. Wear low heels. Exchange your four-inch shoes for flats or low heels (less than 1 inch). High heels create a more unstable posture, and increase pressure on your lower spine. According to research, nearly 60% of women who consistently wear high-heeled shoes complain of low back pain.
  8. Kick the habit. Smoking can increase your risk for osteoporosis of the spine and other bone problems. Osteoporosis can lead to compression fractures of the spine. One study found that smokers are about a third more likely to have low back pain compared with non-smokers.
  9. Watch your weight. Use diet and exercise to keep your weight within a healthy range for your height. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine.

10. Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. Anti-inflammatory drugs and some pain killers can help reduce back pain. Be sure to check with your G.P. or pharmacist about any interactions over-the-counter pain relievers may have with other medications you are taking. People with a history of certain medical conditions (such as ulcers, kidney disease, and liver disease) should avoid some medicines.


Finally if your low back pain persists contact your G.P. for advice.