Assessing the mental health needs of older people

Institutional abuse

Sometimes older people are abused by paid carers, and all practitioners in whatever setting need to be aware of this possibility. It is a practitioner's responsibility to report abuse wherever or however it occurs. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 protects workers who 'blow the whistle' about wrongdoing in their organisation.

Abuse of vulnerable adults can take place in hospitals and care homes as well as in domestic settings. In September 2003 The Commission for Health Improvement published a report on Rowan Ward in Manchester, an inpatient unit for older people with mental health needs, concerning allegations of physical and emotional abuse of vulnerable older people by staff. Issues identified as contributory factors included:

As a result of this report a much greater priority has been given to older people's mental health services within the Department of Health, and in 2004 all Strategic Health Authorities were obliged to review older people's mental health services in their area. The Department of Health Care Services Improvement Partnership published the findings of these reviews in Moving on - Key learning from Rowan Ward (45) in April 2005. The recommendations include involving older people and their carers in the day-to-day running of services, to combat isolation and improve service quality.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection is responsible for setting standards and inspecting care homes and care agencies, and any concerns about abuse in care homes or by social care agencies should be reported to them.

The General Social Care Council is the regulatory body for the social care workforce in England. Under the Protection of Vulnerable Adults scheme, social care staff who have abused or neglected vulnerable adults or placed them at risk of harm are prohibited from working in care positions.

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