MP claims ‘chemical cosh’ is used to control older residents

Older people in care homes are the “victims of a chemical cosh”,
Paul Burstow MP claimed last week.

Figures show that despite calls by the Royal College of
Physicians and Age Concern England four years ago for a national
review of prescribing guidelines, there has been a dramatic
increase in reliance on anti-psychotic drugs to keep older people

In answer to a parliamentary question from Burstow, Liberal
Democrat spokesperson for older people, health minister Jacqui
Smith revealed that there were 252,700 prescriptions for over-60s
in 1999, rising to 428,800 in 2000.

More than one in three health authorities recorded a rise of
over 50 per cent in prescribing. A 119 per cent increase recorded
by Bedfordshire Health Authority was the highest.

Burstow said: “With a chronic shortage of specialist staff to
support older people with dementia and other mental health problems
these figures show that care homes are turning to a chemical
cocktail of drugs to keep people quiet and easier to manage.”

But Frank Ursell, chief executive of the Registered Nursing
Homes Association, said these drugs were only available after an
assessment by a GP and so his allegations were a “scurrilous attack
on the credibility and independence of GPs”.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is expected to
issue guidance on the use of these drugs in December.

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