Care home patients at risk due to understaffing and lack of resource

Elderly care in the UK is underfunded, undervalued and it’s putting the growing ageing population at risk.

At Browell Smith & Co we encounter the impact of strains on the elderly care sector on a regular basis: from dealing with care home fees to handling serious cases of clinical negligence, the stress on the care sector is clear.

The impact of understaffing on nursing home care

A recent study published in the journal PLOS One highlights the danger of overworked staff and the impact of burnout from care home employees.

Researchers from the University College London conducted an anonymous survey of 1,500 carers about activity in residential and nursing care homes across the UK.

They found that neglect was present in nine out of ten care homes.

The level of neglect was primarily attributed to understaffing. Key areas of concern included:

  • 26 per cent of respondents had witnessed a resident waiting for care,
  • 25 per cent had seen care staff avoiding a resident with challenging behaviour,
  • 19 per cent had witnessed residents having insufficient time to eat,
  • and 11 per cent saw staff taking insufficient care when moving residents.

Neglectful or abusive behaviour was more common in care homes where carers reported higher feelings of staff burnout or stress.

Understaffed care homes also create a higher risk of falls.

It was recently released that the number of elderly people dying due to falls has increased in both England and Wales. Since 2008, the number of men dying due to falls has risen by 177 per cent, and for women it has increased by 72 per cent.

The president of the Society for Acute Medicine said that staff shortages are one reason for the increase in fatal falls, with frail patients in care being left alone too often.

Underfunded care homes putting elderly at risk

Budget cuts have attributed to understaffing as well as the nutritional quality of the food being served in care homes, according to a Malnutrition Taskforce and Age UK.

The CQC found failings on the legally-required standards for hydration and nutrition in hundreds of care homes around the country.

In some cases, residents were given insufficient amounts of food and water or were served food that they were unable to chew, creating a risk of choking.

Malnutrition is especially dangerous for the elderly. Weight loss can increase the risk of falls and pressure sores, which are already far too common in care homes.

Dehydration also increases the risk of urinary tract infections, which are harder to diagnose in older people but can become fatal if left untreated.

This is especially dangerous when care staff don’t have adequate time to care for their patients.



It is unfair to blame care home staff for these failings: this growing problem is due to lack of funding and understaffing. Care home workers are overworked and underappreciated, and many don’t have the ability to make an impact on the significant issues facing the care sector.

The charity Public Concern at Work recently made a statement regarding whistleblowing by care home staff.

The charity reportedly receives around 400 calls a year from staff regarding issues like negligence at care homes. And they believe that the problem is bigger than these numbers reflect.

According to their data, one third of care staff who reported a concern to the charity said that their employers ignored concerns when they brought them up at work. Half reported feeling ‘victimised’ after expressing concerns, and 23 per cent said they were dismissed after whistleblowing.

Our ageing population needs better protection and care than this: 70 per cent of care home residents have dementia, and many are unable to speak up for themselves or report cases of neglect.

Care home negligence claims

At Browell Smith & Co Solicitors, we have helped many families deal with the consequences of underfunded and understaffed care homes.

If you believe your family member has been mistreated or neglected in care, contact us to discuss the situation and we can advise on how to best address the issues. We can help you raise complaints with the appropriate party, and where necessary, pursue claims for damages.

Our team has a long track record of representing patients and their families whose lives have been affected from poor care or avoidable medical mistakes.

Contact our clinical negligence team to discuss making a care home claim or enter in your details below to request a callback.

We can arrange your free consultation at any of our offices: Newcastle, Sunderland, Ashington or Cramlington.

Browell Smith & co Solicitors have been serving the North East for over 20 years, providing a full range of legal services including personal injury, divorce and family law, wills, trusts and probate, medical and dental negligence claims and both residential and commercial conveyancing.


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