'Why won't hospital give my dad physio after a stroke?'
In July 2016 Ron Wilkie, a fit 85-year-old, had a stroke. He spent the next four months in a hospital bed. When he came out he struggled to walk. His son has been asking for physiotherapy to help him recover ever since - to no avail.
A son has accused a hospital of discriminating against dementia patients after his 87-year-old father was refused physiotherapy to help recover from a stroke.
Stuart Wilkie’s dad Ron, from Terrington St Clement, was initially able to walk after a stroke in 2016, but he is now bed-bound and has been in and out of hospital ever since.
Mr Wilkie, 56, blames his dad’s deterioration on the refusal of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn to give him physiotherapy.
He said the reason hospital staff gave him for not providing physio was his dad would not remember exercises because he developed dementia.
“They are denying him the chance to walk again,” Mr Wilkie said. “It’s a downward spiral; he has dementia so won’t get physio, but his condition worsens without physio. They should have done it when he had the stroke. They didn’t even give him a chance.”
Charities said dementia patients should not be denied physiotherapy.
But the QEH said an “external independent assessment” found Mr Wilkie was not suitable for physiotherapy.
Mr Wilkie was shopping in Sainsbury’s in King’s Lynn in July 2016 when he had a stroke.
He was quickly taken to the QEH and his son said he initially received good care.
When the former marketing director came out of hospital four months later and went to a care home, he was only able to walk a few metres after weeks in a hospital bed.
But he was assessed as not being suitable for physiotherapy.
“I got him out of bed and walking at the care home,” Mr Wilkie said.
But while in the care home he lost weight and suffered a fractured back so was taken back to hospital in May 2017.
When Mr Wilkie, who taught his grandson to ski at the age of 80, came out of hospital for a second time and taken to a different care home, he was on the waiting list for physiotherapy thanks to a referral from his GP.
By August last year he could walk more than 100 metres with a frame and was nearing the top of the waiting list for physiotherapy.
But he was then taken back to hospital as he was dehydrated and lost weight in the care home again, meaning he lost his place on the waiting list.
He was then diagnosed with dementia in September last year.
When he came back out of hospital again Mr Wilkie went to Swaffham Cottage Hospital but was sent back to the QEH for a third time in January with sepsis.
His son said he has been asking since 2016 for physiotherapy for his dad, long before his dementia diagnosis in September.
“They used dementia as a factor to deny him physio even before his diagnosis,” he said. “One of the physios at the hospital even admitted in January they could get him to walk again.”
The hospital said it has no policy to deny dementia patients physiotherapy, but assessed on an individual basis.
While in hospital and care homes Mr Wilkie also developed other illnesses including urinary tract infections and bed sores.
Mr Wilkie said: “The QEH is actually increasing their costs overall, as they have condemned him to bed, causing him to have unnecessary and life-threatening complications, ranging from pressure sores to sepsis, instead of working efficiently, with physiotherapy to keep him ambulant.”
He said the denial of physiotherapy has caused “huge distress and pain” for his father.
Mr Wilkie has complained to the hospital and contacted Dementia UK as well as local charity the Edith Ellen Foundation which campaigns for better care for the elderly.
Mr Wilkie is now in a care home which has a physiotherapist in the same building, but without a referral from the hospital they can not help him.
Claire Roberts, the QEH’s director of patient experience, said “The Trust is sorry that Mr Wilkie is concerned that his father is not receiving appropriate therapy to support his rehabilitation.
“Mr Wilkie senior received an external independent assessment before he was discharged from hospital and at that time it was felt he would not be able to benefit from physiotherapy but the assessor was happy to re-assess should his situation change.
“The Trust provides access to services entirely based on each individual patient’s needs and has no policy to restrict services to people living with dementia.”
Mr Wilkie disputed that the assessment of his father was independent as it was done by one the hospital’s physiotherapists.
•Physio can help dementia patients
Former nurse Kate Blake, from West Norfolk charity the Edith Ellen Foundation, has looked at Mr Wilkie’s case.
She said: “The NHS and local authorities have a responsibility to ensure people are not left without adequate care and support.
“Yet despite this, the Edith Ellen Foundation is still seeing the unrelieved pain in our older people remaining as a significant problem. It is not confined to Norfolk. It is not acceptable for the NHS to walk away from a person in pain.”
Helen Burgess from Agespace Norfolk, which advises families on looking after elderly relatives, said: “People can live well with dementia with the right support network, whether that be professional care or family support.
“If this network is in place, there should be no reason to withhold treatment.”
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, meanwhile, states on its website that physio can be “clinically and cost effective in the management of dementia”.