Friday, January 09, 2009


Remember Harold Shipman. He was a very evil man - a GP who murdered well over 200 people, mostly elderly women. He was found guilty of murdering 15 of them in 2000, sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he never be released. He hanged himself in Wakefield Prison on 2004. Not many will have mourned him. I anticipate that all visitors to this blog agree that to kill over 200 people, mostly elderly is a terrible evil. Research by the Alzheimer's Research Trust , widely reported today, informs us that 23,000 elderly people are being killed, every year, by the over-prescription of antipsychotic drugs, often given just to keep them quiet. Is it possible to think of anything more evil ?

Regular readers will know that I have become involved with a care provider, The Europeancare Group, and RESEC, a charity we sponsor. RESEC is an acronym for Research into Specialist Elderly Care. I was in Cardiff yesterday, with other representatives of the company, meeting civil servants to discuss how we can best introduce an 'advocacy scheme' to serve the residents in our care homes. We want the residents of our homes to have ready access to an 'independent' service which will fight for their interests. This is not a wholly straight forward ambition to achieve. But the more time I spend thinking about issues surrounding dementia, and delivering care, the more concerned I become that the Government is not remotely geared up to face the challenge that longevity brings with it.

The standard figures that we all use are that there are 700,000 people suffering dementia in the UK at present, and that figure is going to rise to 1,000,000. Without properly funded care of these people, the likelihood of casual use of antipsychotic drugs could well increase. What was that figure found by the research team led by Professor Clive Ballard of King's College, London again - and quoted in the journal, Lancet Neurology ? 23, 000 Alzheimer's sufferers being killed - every year. That's the equivalent of 230 Harold Shipmans - every year. It has been a news story today - but will it be tomorrow. I doubt it. But it should be.


Anonymous said...

Old Shipman actually did set out on a euthanasia programme.

The thing is, it really is about time that we took a close look at where we want the Human Race to go? If we are going to provide healthcare that increases life expectancy, then things like Alzheimer's is going to become more common.

Our planet is overpopulated as it is, compared to the middle ages, the population was roughly one quarter to one third it's present level, we have gone way beyond the carrying capacity and we are due a pandemic.

Don't like the idea of Grey Squirrel flavoured crisps, by the way.

Anonymous said...

The prescribing of psychotropic drugs for people with dementia has been a problem for years.
When I worked in the NHS in the early 1980's a consultant and I agreed to stop their use on the ward on which I was charge nurse.

Years later, working in private care homes, the problem was as bad if not worse. The problem is that staff are not trained, or motivated enough, to help people who can become anxious/agitated/angry etc. The only way they can handle such situations is by giving tranquilisers.

When I last worked in a care home, in 2005, there were standards set for independent advocates. Unfortunately the standards are not really enforceable. There are standards set for staff training too, but these only mean that staff have to attend a set number of hours training. How do you make sure staff are motivated to learn, and do learn?

I fear we have a long way to go yet before treatment of people suffering from dementia improves as much as some of us would like.

Glyn Davies said...

'Old Shipman' sounds like a make of rum. I agree about the pandemic, which I take the threat of bird flu seriously. And you are right about the growth in some illnesses as life expectancy increases. The inevitable adjustment in public investment is lagging behind.

Dalesman - Agreed

Anonymous said...

...or aftershave?

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - 'Old Spice' was the last after shave I bought, and that was around 30 years ago. I gave up using scent then. Didn't think it was 'manly'.

Anonymous said...

....and it burns like buggery!

I can remember an associate of mine who used to say that he and his family would get a "Smelly Uncle" some deoderant and other such products for him at Christmas, unfortunately, he couldn't take the hint

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - should have told him it would uplift his libido.