Many nurses would not report the abuse of an older person in their care, a survey has found.
The poll for Help the Aged revealed that a lack of training, heavy workloads and fear of being confronted by the abuser was stopping nurses taking action.
The charity wants health and social care agencies to have a legal obligation to report suspected abuse to the police. It is also calling for mandatory training in elder abuse for nurses.
Jean Gould, legal policy officer for Help the Aged, said: “Nurses are clearly lacking the proper support they need to be able to protect vulnerable adults in their care.
“Training in elder abuse for nurses must be mandatory, together with a legal requirement for protocols to ensure that all professionals respond confidently and take effective action as quickly as possible.
“It is a national disgrace that we sit back while thousands of older people are abused every day. All frontline professionals must be given thorough training as a matter of priority. Without it, potential new cases of abuse will go unnoticed and older people will be left at even greater risk.”
The survey, of 848 readers of the healthcare magazine Nursing Standard and Royal College of Nursing journal Nursing Older People, revealed that 68% of nurses and professionals caring for vulnerable older people lack the training to deal with elder abuse.
More than half (58%) said they would not report abuse for fear of having their facts wrong. More than a quarter (26%) admitted fear of confrontation by the abuser would prevent them from speaking up.
Latest figures from the National Centre for Social Research and King’s College London show that 342,000 older people in private households are subjected to some form of mistreatment every year in the UK.
The most common form of abuse is neglect, followed by financial abuse, but older people also suffer psychological, physical and sexual abuse.