By P. Klein
David Taylor MP [Member of Parliament] has introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons which aims to end the ‘chemical cosh’ approach to the prescription of anti-psychotic drugs for people with dementia in care homes.
The Bill seeks to implement the recommendations of a report Always a Last Resort by an all-party group (of which David was a member) which reached some startling conclusions and found consensus among patient and professional organisations, regulators and the care home sector that over-prescribing is currently a massive problem. It is estimated that these drugs are wrongly prescribed in an incredible 70% of cases.
Introducing the Bill, the North West Leicestershire MP said “The frail elderly in our population far too often have no-one to speak for them and are being disgracefully and unfairly treated when at their most vulnerable with some type of dementia. One third of all people over 65 will be suffering from dementia when they die, their condition will touch the lives of millions more families and friends, who will provide care and support to the victims of this cruel and relentless disease.
“We cannot continue to speed the decline of dementia patients through poor management with expensive and often inappropriate antipsychotic drugs in care homes. We know that the number of people with dementia in the UK is expected to reach 1 million in 2025. And last year, care homes spent £60 million on antipsychotic drugs, even though they were not appropriate forms of treatment in most cases.
“As the dementia population continues to grow, we must equip care home staff with the skills necessary to identify different forms of behaviour amongst dementia residents.
“Care homes have a large and increasing amount of responsibility for caring for our population of dementia patients. Two-thirds of the care home population suffer from a form of dementia, and dementia sufferers in care homes are more likely to be in the advanced stages of the disease.
“Too often and too quickly it seems antipsychotics are prescribed to manage behaviour that is neither distressing or threatening, such as restlessness or being vocal – often basic expressions of need.
“The Under-Secretary of State for Health has said that he wants to bring dementia out of the shadows. I hope that the Bill and our report will pierce the Stygian [extremely dark, gloomy, or forbidding] gloom and illuminate one of the bleakest and darkest recesses of that dire and degenerative chamber that faces one in three of us. There is much good practice out there in dealing with the behavioural symptoms of dementia in a non-pharmacological manner. We need to spread and entrench that in all care home settings. That is currently happening at far too slow a rate and demands urgent action now.
“The 1,000 or more people with dementia here in North West Leicestershire – and in every constituency – deserve better. In the interests of those hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, my Bill, like our all-party group report, aims to flag up some suggestions on the way ahead for the crucial national dementia strategy in a few months.
“The use of anti-psychotics should always be the course of last resort. “