HUNDREDS of dementia patients are being locked in Scottish hospital wards for 24 hours a day – twice as long as many jailed criminals.
Patients’ groups have condemned the situation as “inhuman” and the Scottish Human Rights Commission said it appeared human rights laws were being breached.
The relevation today (Sun) prompted Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon to seek assurances from nursing chiefs that standards for dementia care are being met.
There are 71,000 dementia sufferers in Scotland and the number is expected to double in the next 25 years.
But the poor design of many wards, combined with low staffing levels, means many patients never see the outside world.
Many prisoners locked up in Scottish jails, however, enjoy as much as 12 hours outside of their cells.
Margaret Watt of Scotland’s Patient Association said: “The fact that dementia sufferers are being locked up longer than prisoners is completely unacceptable.
“Hospitals are using locked doors as a way of keeping staffing down on these wards.”
A Freedom of Information request to Scotland’s 14 health boards revealed shocking cases including:
*NHS Ayrshire and Arran admitted it had 67 dementia patients that were locked up round the clock and it had no plans to change the policy.
*NHS Borders said two of its three demential wards – catering for 40 patients – were permanently locked.
*NHS Forth Valley said 69 patients on four wards were locked in 24 hours a day although the decision will be reviewed.
*NHS Lothian locks up 143 patients for 24 hours a day in 12 wards.
Dr Donald Lyons of the Mental Welfare Commission said: “It’s not good enough. We have visited wards where dementia patients have spent years without going outside.
“Many hospital wards are poorly designed for dementia patients. There is no actual need for them to be locked at all if the wards are designed properly and staffing adequate.”
Doug Anthoney(corr) of Age Scotland said dementia patients had their liberty removed “on no other basis than force of habit”.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Human Rights Commission said: “Blanket policies around locked doors raise human rights concerns.
“The human rights of people with dementia should be at the centre of policies around locked doors in hospitals.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it was necessary to balance the safety of dementia sufferers with their personal freedoms and dignity.
This sometimes meant that movement had to be restricted, said the spokesman.
He said: “The Scottish Government’s new dementia care standards empower people with dementia to get the care and treatment to which they are entitled.
“The Chief Nursing Officer has been asked by the Deputy First Minister to assure her that care in hospital meets these standards.”