Soaring toll of elderly starving in their homes: Hospital admissions up fifty percent as councils cut back care

The number of people hospitalised because they are malnourished has soared by 50 per cent in five years.

Ten patients a week end up in hospital, half of them aged over 60.

Critics say the latest figures show care services are failing to ensure pensioners get the help they need. More councils are increasing fees for meals on wheels or denying people access to the service altogether.

Experts warn that many older people cannot afford a healthy diet, partly because rising energy bills force the worst off to choose between heating or eating.

The official figures show that 531 people were admitted to hospital with a primary diagnosis of malnutrition in 2011 – more than ten a week. This is up 14 per cent in the last year and 47 per cent on the 362 who were hospitalised in 2007.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission warned last year that home care was often so poor it put the elderly at risk of malnutrition.

Some received home help visits that were so brief they had to choose between being washed or being fed, while other carers did not ensure their charges were eating properly.

The figures are the tip of the iceberg, because thousands more people admitted to hospital for other reasons turn out to be badly nourished.

Michelle Mitchell, of charity Age UK, said: ‘It is estimated that one million older people are malnourished. Every case is preventable.

‘Many older people feel they don’t have enough money for a balanced diet whilst others have practical difficulties with shopping and cooking.

‘The consequences can be very serious. In the worst cases older people can end up being admitted to hospital or take much longer to recover from illness or injury.’ In January, a report by MPs on the all-party Commons health select committee warned that almost half of councils have put up charges for home help and other services ‘moderately or substantially’.

The move has earned them an extra £84million from care recipients in the last year. The report also found that 82 per cent of councils have restricted free care such as meals on wheels to those whose needs are described as ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ – a rise of 13 per cent.

The Daily Mail has been pushing to improve the care and treatment for older people in its Dignity For The Elderly campaign. Last night Neil Duncan-Jordan, of the National Pensioners’ Convention, said: ‘The way older people are looked after in the community is failing on a grandiose scale.

‘Councils have rationed services so much that people who need help at the edges do not receive the help they need. You have to be extreme to qualify now, so those lower down the scale don’t get the preventative help which could see them avoid going to hospital.’

Labour health spokesman Andy Burnham, who obtained the figures, said: ‘An increasing number of older people are struggling alone and not having their basic needs met.

‘We are going backwards as a society. It should not be happening in Britain in 2012.

‘Severe cuts to care are a lose-lose situation. They lead to appalling suffering of older people. But they are also a false economy for public finances, as the NHS is left to pick up the pieces.’

The Department of Health said: ‘The Government is committed to supporting the NHS to prevent malnutrition.’


Sourced from the Daily Mail, 28th May 2012