Third of people saw ‘abuse of elderly in nursing homes’

A significant number of people have observed physical or emotional abuse in nursing homes.

Generally, the standard of care and the attitude of staff in hospitals and nursing homes were the most common complaints of people who experienced incidents.

Almost two-thirds of people have been witness to the poor provision of health and social care services, with 36% of those spotting physical or emotional abuse in a nursing home.

The opinion poll, commissioned by the Health Information and Quality Authority and carried out by Red C, marks Hiqa’s 10th anniversary and points to public concerns about services such as public hospitals and home care services.

The survey of 1,053 adults found 63% of respondents have witnessed at least one poor provision across health and social services within the last five years.

Some 47% of respondents reported having experienced poor provisions in public hospitals; of those, 80% cited access and waiting times for services as the main issues. 

After public hospitals, 21% of respondents said they had witnessed poor provision of services in nursing homes and another 21% said their experience of poor service came in homecare services. In both, standard of care and attitudes of staff were the most common concerns.

While just 4% of those who referred to issues in public hospitals cited physical or emotional abuse, the corresponding percentage within home care services was 24%. Of those who cited problems in nursing homes, 36% referred to physical or emotional abuse.

Age Action said the figure was “very worrying”. Its head of advocacy, Justin Moran, said it highlights “the urgent need to do more to tackle elder abuse in our care system”.

“It is critical that the upcoming consultation on a statutory homecare scheme identifies a robust, independent system to monitor how homecare is delivered and ensure the rights of older people are protected.”

Private Hospitals Association chief executive Simon Nugent welcomed the findings: “Today’s survey shows only a tiny proportion of respondents (5%) actually had any concerns about private hospital service compared to the public system (47%).”

Hiqa chief executive Phelim Quinn said the findings would help inform its work as it continues into its second decade. 

“Unfortunately, it is still too common for the public to witness the poor provision of health and social care services. Many of the areas where poor provision is witnessed are currently not independently regulated.”

Poll respondents said top of the list for aspects of care were being treated with dignity, a respect for privacy, and clear standards and guidelines to assist staff were top of the list.

Just 41% of respondents agreed with the statement “the health service is efficient and currently achieves good value for money”, while there was strong support for independent oversight of health and social care services and clear levels of accountability.

The poll found widespread misunderstanding of regulation of health and social care services, with 83% mistakenly believing private hospitals are independently regulated or monitored and 76% of people believing homecare services are independently regulated or monitored. 

There was strong support for independent regulation of services, and while 63% of respondents were aware of Hiqa, it dropped to 36% in the 18-24 age group.


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