Government casts doubt on level of elder abuse claimed by campaigners

The government looks set to carry out research into the abuse of
older people after community care minister Stephen Ladyman
questioned the scale of the problem.

Speaking at last week’s health committee inquiry hearing into elder
abuse, Ladyman admitted that there was a “significant problem”, but
said suggestions that 500,000 people a year were suffering from
elder abuse were “unhelpful” because the definitions used were too

He said the government was “very interested” in a proposal from
campaign group Action on Elder Abuse to carry out a two-year study
to identify how many older people are suffering abuse. He said a
decision on whether to go ahead with the study would be taken

The proposal involves testing Action on Elder Abuse’s definition of
abuse – broken down into five levels of severity – against data
collected by local authority adult protection teams on recorded
incidents of abuse. It will look at what action was taken and what
the outcome was, and aim to develop a national recording system for

Ladyman said that the 500,000 figure included “innocuous” things
such as raised voices, “which should not be counted as abuse in my

He said the department’s definition included physical, sexual and
financial abuse, and verbal abuse that led to loss of self-esteem.

During the hearing, Deidre Hine, chairperson of the Commission for
Health Improvement, said there was a “general problem” in care
homes over the use of sedatives on older people.

“I’m sorry to say that the medical profession has given far too
little attention to the sophistication and complexity of this.” She
said clinicians needed to have better training on the reactions of
drugs and on assessing the need for continually reviewing patients’
drug regimes.

Chairperson of the National Care Standards Commission Anne Parker
revealed that less than half of care homes met national minimum
standards on administering medication correctly to older people.

NCSC inspections of care homes last year found that 45 per cent met
the standard, with just 1 per cent exceeding it.

However, of those that failed to meet the standards, 42 per cent
were for minor infringements.

“I’d expect to see a significant number of those that almost met
the standards moving into that category next year,” she said.

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