A 'forgotten million' elderly people suffer from chronic loneliness and social isolation, to 'our national shame', Jeremy Hunt said today.
A coroner ruled that neglect contributed to five of the 19 deaths that occurred at Orchid View care home in Copthorne, West Sussex.
More than a million old people experience chronic loneliness, but there are some simple things that can help defeat these sad feelings.
The Government has confirmed measures to stop vulnerable children being placed in care miles from their homes.
Children's minister Edward Timpson said he was determined to end an "out of sight, out of mind" culture and in future senior officials will have to sign off on all such decisions.
Changes coming into force at the end of the month will also see tougher inspection of care homes and more information released on performance.
Over the past 10 years, 1,158 care home residents died of thirst or while suffering from severe dehydration - an average of almost 10 people a month - according to a report by The Daily Telegraph.
Here are some symptoms of severe dehydration, according to the NHS:
- Low level of consciousness
- Dry mouth, eyes that don't produce tears
- Not passing urine for eight hours
- Dry skin that sags slowly into position when pinched up
- Rapid heartbeat
- Blood in stools/vomit
- Low blood pressure
- Sunken eyes
- Weak pulse
- Cool hands and feet
– Gary FitzGerald Chief Executive, Action on Elder Abuse
It is appalling that frail vulnerable people can die from a lack of basic sustenance in the heart of care provision.
This is a major scandal that should never have occurred, and all levels must bear some responsibility, including care providers, regulators and the Government. The quality and safety of care of our older people has been an afterthought for too long.
What we need is a Cabinet-led strategy that makes this a major priority for change. We cannot go on like this.
As a report reveals more than 1,000 British care home residents over the past decade died of thirst or while suffering from severe dehydration, we look at some recent cases.
- Norma Spear, 71, died in September 2010 after losing 35lbs in five weeks in Druids Meadow care home, Birmingham. An inquest found dehydration played a part in her death.
- Josephine Cunningham, 86, won compensation from Care UK in 2011 after being left badly dehydrated at Appleby House, Epsom.
- Gloria Foster, 81, died in February 2013 after being left nine days without food, following the closure of her care provider Agency Carefirst24, which shut with no replacement, a report by Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board found.
- Siegfried Jaeckel, 84, died on Christmas Day 2010 at St Andrew's Lodge care home, Nottingham, with the nature of his death prompting a council enquiry. Deputy Coroner for Nottingham Heidi Connor said the cause of death was pneumonia, but that dehydration had contributed to this.
Care and support minister Norman Lamb said care failings that contribute to people being malnourished or dehydrated are "entirely unacceptable".
– Care and support minister Norman Lamb
The law requires that care homes must ensure residents receive enough to eat and drink and we expect the Care Quality Commission to take swift action when this is not the case.
We want everyone to get better care, which is why the CQC are bringing in new rules so that it can crack down on poor care more effectively and why we're taking action so that company directors will be personally responsible for the quality of care their organisation provides.
A charity has warned that an improvement in training for care home staff was necessary to look after patients.
The warning comes after figures published in The Daily Telegraph showed that over 1,000 care home residents had died of thirst or while suffering from severe dehydration in the past decade.
– Dr Alison Cook, director of external affairs at the Alzheimer's Society
It makes you sick to the stomach that you are handing your loved ones over with even the remotest possibility they could starve to death or die of thirst.
There is a real need for better training for those who are looking after elderly and vulnerable people. But even more important is allowing people the time to really care for someone.
Over the past decade more than 1,000 care home residents in England and Wales died of thirst or while suffering from severe dehydration, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Some 1,158 care home residents suffered dehydration-related deaths from 2003 to 2012, figures obtained by the newspaper showed.
Dehydration was noted on death certificates as either the main cause of death or a contributory factor, according to the newspaper.
Some 318 care home residents died from starvation or when severely malnourished over the same period, and 2,815 deaths were related to bed sores.
The figures showed that more people died while dehydrated last year than when the coalition came to power in 2010, but the number was lower than the 2006 peak.
In response to an inquest that found neglect was a contributing factor in the deaths of five elderly residents at the Orchid View Care Home in West Sussex, a Department of Health spokesperson described the lack of care as "appalling".
They added: "We have made it clear that there must be a sharper focus on taking tougher action when things go wrong and holding those responsible to account.
"Confidence in the regulation regime has been shaken, but we have now turned a corner."