Eight in ten doctors believe healthcare services for older people are not good enough, with only one in ten believing enough money is being spent on care of the elderly in the NHS, shows a BMA survey.
Around 500 GPs, consultants and staff grade doctors responded to the BMA survey about the care provided to older patients. The biggest area of concern was the lack of services available in the community, with only one in ten (8.1%) feeling that activities provided in residential and care homes to maintain mental agility and physical exercise were adequate. Two thirds (62.1%) thought there were not enough services to support people with dementia. Only a third (33.6%) said older people had continuous access to podiatry services.
Dr Helena McKeown, a GP from Wiltshire and the Chair of the BMA's Committee on Community Care says:
"It's disgraceful that care services are so chronically under-funded. For example, cutbacks in my area meant I heard of elderly patients having their bathing reduced from twice a week to once a week, something which they found very distressing and dehumanising. We no longer have an attached social worker, a community physiotherapist or a dedicated community psychiatric nurse so it's very difficult to give our patients the sort of joined-up care they need. It's incredibly frustrating for everyone involved - all we want to do is help our patients and we can't.
"The funding of community services has not kept up with society's desire for people to stay in their homes for as long as possible. People deserve to have an old age that is fulfilling and dignified, at the moment I don't feel a lot of them are getting that."
The survey also found that four in five (83%) doctors don't believe there are adequate respite facilities to support carers. The BMA recently held a roundtable meeting to mark the contribution of carers and to discuss what further actions would help to support them, Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the BMA, says:
"Carers do an incredibly important but undervalued job which can often have an adverse affect on their own health. So it's sad to see how widespread a problem this is, particularly in conjunction with the worrying findings in the survey about the level of services available for elderly patients. The BMA, working with other health colleagues, intends to lobby the government on these issues to try to make sure carers and older people get the healthcare they deserve."
Other findings from the BMA survey include:
- Two thirds (67.8%) of doctors believe staffing levels in residential and nursing homes are not appropriate and four out of five (78.2%) believe that this is the key priority that needs to be addressed
- Three in five (60.2%) doctors believe there isn't appropriate continuity of care in both health and social services
- Two in five (41%) said they had continuous access to physiotherapy services for their patients