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Injuries in nursing homes likely to increse

The increase in the national minimum wage is likely to have a series of unintended consequences, as employers adjust staffing levels to balance their books. In some cases, such as in nursing homes, this will inevitably put people at risk since a lower ratio of staff to patients could mean more accidents and injuries occur.

In the latest Budget report, chancellor George Osborne announced that employers would have to pay staff aged 25 or over at least £7.20 per hour from April 2016, rising to £9 by 2020. The 6 per cent year-on-year increase is well ahead of inflation. Although the living wage is a laudable aim, in nursing homes – where falls and other injuries are already a serious problem due to under-staffing – there could be serious implications.

The average nursing home experiences one to two falls per patient per year, with many falls going unreported. Some 10 to 20 per cent of falls cause serious injuries, and up to 6 per cent result in fractures. Suitable assessment of patients and appropriate staff education can reduce the number of falls, as well as other measures, such as regular reviews of medication and changes to the nursing home environment. All of these are susceptible to cutbacks.

There have been a series of cases in which nursing home residents have been seriously injured or have died as a result of inadequate care after a fall. In one instance a patient fell from her bed in the night but an ambulance was not called until the morning. Several employees were disciplined as a result. In another case, a care home owner was jailed after failing to take sufficient measures to prevent a resident falling to her death from a window

Cuts to staffing due to increased wages will mean that more falls and other injuries occur, and are more likely to lead to serious complications, since employees will have less time to spend with each resident – meaning they are less able to assess incidents as they occur or to call for medical help.
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