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Access to health care in nursing homes: a survey in one English Health Authority


CorrespondenceSusan Helen Kerrison Health and Services Research Unit School of Public Policy University College 29/30 Tavistock Square London WC1H 9EZ UK E-mail:


The objective of the study was to establish the arrangements for provision of general practitioner (GP), nursing advice, chiropody, physiotherapy and speech and language services to nursing homes and to establish the charging policies for those services. To this end a telephone survey of the managers of the 51 nursing homes registered with one English health authority, Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth Health Authority, was undertaken. Forty-nine homes (96%) with 1541 residents responded. Twenty per cent of homes had no regular GP visits and half the homes had no planned medication reviews. One in five homes (27% of residents) had access to all health-care services. Eight homes (10% of residents) did not have access to therapy services or nursing advice. Thirty-three homes used private or both private and NHS chiropody services and 16 homes used the NHS service only. Seventeen homes used private or both private and NHS physiotherapy services with 10 homes receiving a regular private service. Twenty homes used the NHS service and 12 homes (15% of residents) had used no physiotherapy service. None used private speech and language services. Twenty-four of the 33 homes using private chiropody charged extra for this service compared with two of 10 homes using regular private physiotherapy. The findings suggest that there are inequalities in access to health care services in nursing homes. Moreover, there has been a deterioration in access to and levels of provision of NHS nursing and physiotherapy services since the national survey undertaken by the Office Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) in Great Britain in the mid-1980s. The new regulatory framework for older people must include systems for monitoring the provision of health services.