During the COVID-19 epidemic, Age UK will be providing you with a brief, weekly email with resources and advice that you can share with older constituents. This week’s email will focus on safeguarding and access to treatment issues during the COVID-19 epidemic.
All of your older constituents, people who have underlying health conditions, or are considered vulnerable, are being asked to stay inside for the foreseeable future. Although we typically think of the home as a safe place, for some people being at home, with limited contact with the outside world, can increase their risk of experiencing abuse or neglect. You may have already seen that calls to domestic abuse helplines have risen 25% since the Government asked everyone to stay at home. We know that people of any age can suffer domestic abuse, and in 2018/19 we had 655 inquiries on the issue through our own adviceline.
This is why we have provided advice for all local Age UKs on how to make their volunteers aware of this risk. This information, which we have attached, can be shared more widely with other voluntary organisations in your constituency, should you wish to do so. Crucially it also provides information about the appropriate limitations of a volunteer’s role, which is vital at a time when resources among charities up and down the UK are stretched to breaking point.
If you are worried a constituent or someone you know is at risk of abuse or neglect you can speak with:
Age UK Advice Line (8am –7pm 7 days a week) 0800 678 1174
Adult Social Care at your local council
Your GP or other NHS health providers
Hourglass helpline: 0808 808 8141
The Police - You can call the local police on the 101 non-emergency number or call 999 immediately in an emergency
Staying at home
Many of those over 70 will be social-distancing or shielding alone. If you have older constituents, friends or family that you are concerned about at this time, they may benefit from our telephone befriending service.
If you aren’t already in touch with them, and want to contact your local Age UK to find out what they are doing to respond to the crisis, you can find them here: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/services/in-your-area/ (Please be advised that many local Age UKs have had severe disruptions to their services, and as such some information displayed on their website about the services or activities provided may now be out of date.)
Your constituents’ human rights during COVID-19
You may have seen the worrying media reports that some care homes and doctors surgeries are contacting the ‘sickest’ patients and asking them to fill in Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) forms in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This is a deeply concerning approach and will no doubt shock many older people and their families.
We believe that decisions about treatment should always be made on a case by case basis through honest discussion between doctors, patients and their families that factor in the risks, benefits, and people's wishes. There is no reason to abandon this long-established good practice now; in fact, the current health emergency makes it more critical than ever that we keep it.
The fact that someone is in need of care and support, in a care home or their own home, should not be used as a proxy for their health status, nor blanket policies applied - for example, over whether they should be admitted to hospital. To make such decisions without considering either an older person’s needs or their capacity to benefit from hospital treatment would be discriminatory and unfair.
The National Medical Director and the Chief Nursing Officer have written to all NHS Trusts, GP Practices and providers of community health services to underline that blanket policies based on age, medical condition or disability are not appropriate: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2020/04/maintaining-standards-quality-of-care-pressurised-circumstances-7-april-2020.pdf
If you come across issues relating to DNR in your constituency, please contact your local and national Age UK for information and advice on how to proceed.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. You will hear from me next Thursday with our next update. I hope you find these useful.