Are UK nursing homes cutting costs with PEG tubes?

Nursing homes in the UK are making the insertion of a feeding tube a condition for entry for dementia sufferers, according to a report from the Royal College of Physicians. The Guardian says that thousands of people have been treated this way.

The report opposes "nil by mouth" as a normal response to dementia. Apparently there is no evidence that tube feeding prolongs the life of patients and it deprives them of the pleasure and social contact involved of meal times. With time and care, elderly people with swallowing difficulties can be helped to eat and drink normally.

"This is a widespread problem. Many care homes say they will not take a patient until they have had a gastrostomy," says Dr Rodney Burnham, the chair of the group which produced the report. "There is no reason for them to do that. They should have nursing support."

The report (which costs £20) suggests that nursing homes are using PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) tubes as a way of cost-cutting. It opposes this solution to the complex end-of-life needs of dementia sufferers: "Such decisions should never be based on the convenience of staff or carers. Nor should artificial feeding ever be required as a criterion for admission to any institution providing care." ~ Guardian, Jan 6

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | dementia, end of life, nursing homes

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