Care home elderly forced to pay £17 to get toe nails cut

Elderly residents in a number of Sheffield care homes are being forced to pay up to £17 to have their toe nails cut.

Story submitted by: Gael Stigant

‘Significant’ numbers of old people face a waiting list of more than four months to get basic foot care from the NHS, meaning they have no choice but to fork out for a private podiatrist.

A lack of trained members of care home staff, and a shortage of training spaces, worsens the problem.

A report by Sheffield Local Involvement Network (LINk), which was written following an investigation by its Care Homes for Older People Action sub-group, stated: “Significant numbers of older people are paying for private chiropody services at prices varying from £5 to £17 per session.

“It is difficult to know for certain what type of foot care they are paying for but we know that many of these contacts are for toe nail cutting only.

“We found that some care home staff will file people’s toe nails and some won’t, leaving people with little choice but to pay for this.”

According to Age UK, some one in three older people are unable to cut their own toe nails.

Sheffield’s primary care trust is obliged to ensure these people have access to the appropriate NHS services, however over the last year it has taken an average of four months for the NHS Podiatry Service to respond to referrals. High risk patients, for example people with diabetes, are seen within four weeks and urgent cases are seen within 48 hours.

The report said: “Due to the long waiting times and lack of their staff trained to file toe nails, some care homes had stopped referring people for assessment and advised their residents to access private foot care.

“The current situation regarding some residents paying for toe nail cutting is unfair and all older people in care homes should expect the (same) standards.”

Only four NHS podiatrists are available to cover about 500 new referrals a month from the city’s 91 care homes. Sheffield Podiatry Service has less than 25 per cent of the proportional number of staff than the national norm.

The report added: “We found that training for care home staff is still available and the current training on offer would cover 80 staff. This is good news but we did raise the concern that this would not even allow for one member of staff per home.”

The report recommended that NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group should ‘urgently’ review the funding of NHS Podiatry Services and agree appropriate staffing levels to ensure correct standards can be met.

Kevin Clifford, chief nurse from the NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We welcome the report from Sheffield LINk that states that overall the quality of care in Sheffield care homes is of a high and reassuring standard.

“We will now work together with all involved to digest the report and consider the recommendations from LINk about how we can continue to enhance and maintain the standard of service that our patients and residents deserve.”