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More than 1,000 care home residents have died of thirst or while suffering severe dehydration over the past decade, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Elderly and vulnerable patients were left without enough water despite being under the supervision of trained staff in homes in England and Wales.

The Coalition has failed to improve the situation, with more people dying while dehydrated last year than when David Cameron took office, although the total was lower than the 2006 peak.

Charities called for an urgent overhaul in social care, saying that the general public would be outraged if animals were treated in the same way.

“How can we call ourselves civilised when people are left to starve or die of thirst? … It is an utter disgrace that they are ever left without the most basic care,” said Dr Alison Cook, a director at the Alzheimer’s Society.

Figures obtained by this newspaper under freedom of information laws found that 1,158 care home residents suffered dehydration-related deaths between 2003 and 2012. Dehydration was named as either the underlying cause of death or a contributory factor, according to analysis of death certificates by the Office of National Statistics.

Some 318 care home residents were found to have died from starvation or when severely malnourished, while 2,815 deaths were linked to bed sores.

The real figures are likely to be far higher because residents who died while in hospital were not included.

Campaigners said the disclosures raised serious concerns about the way vulnerable elderly people were treated and why the Government had failed to decrease the numbers dying of thirst after more than three years in office.

Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said the care system needed an urgent overhaul.

“It is not good enough for ministers or the care regulator to talk about making improvements by 2015 when, in the meantime, older people are dying from neglect.

“The public would be outraged if animals were treated in the same way – we need to show the same compassion when it comes to caring for our elderly loved ones,” she added.

Earlier this year a coroner found that neglect by staff at a Birmingham care home contributed to the death of Norma Spear, 71, who lost 35lbs in five weeks while suffering from dehydration.

Her daughter Carol Clay said she was shocked by the level of dehydration deaths uncovered by The Daily Telegraph but feared that in 10 years’ time nothing will have changed.

The care system has been hit with a succession of scandals in recent years, with homes accused of systematic neglect and carers jailed for abusing patients.

Earlier this year a series of unannounced inspections by the Care Quality Commission, the health watchdog, discovered that vulnerable people in homes and hospitals were routinely denied privacy, inadequately fed or just ignored

The regulator heard staff dismissing elderly people as “lost causes” and forcing residents to use lavatories without doors. Around one in three homes inspected failed to pass any of the CQC’s five standards used to measure performance.

In 2011 a BBC Panorama investigation secretly filmed staff at Winterbourne View private hospital, near Bristol, hitting and taunting patients with learning disabilities. Six staff members were eventually jailed, while 19 patients are due to receive compensation. In October a coroner said that Orchid View care home, near Crawley, West Sussex, where 19 residents died, was riddled with “institutionalised abuse” and criticised the CQC for rating it as good in 2010.

Last year the CQC issued 818 warning notices to adult social care services in England – around two thirds more than the preceding year.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has said he will give the CQC “statutory independence” in an attempt to make the regulator more efficient, moving it on to a similar footing as the Bank of England.

Reacting to the findings, a Labour spokesman said that every elderly person “deserves the high standards of care that we would all want for our own mum or dad”. He added: “We will never get the care we aspire to from a social care system that has been stretched to the limit and cut to the bone.”

Norman Lamb, the care and support minister, said the deaths from thirst and starvation were “entirely unacceptable”.

He added that new CQC rules would allow it to intervene more effectively, and ministers would act to make company directors personally responsible for the care their organisation provides.

(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10487305/More-than-a-thousand-care-home-residents-die-thirsty.html)

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