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Hundreds have died of dehydration in care homes

Neglect levels in Britain's care homes were described as "scandalous" today after it emerged that more than 650 elderly residents have died of dehydration in the past five years.

Figures also revealed that 157 vulnerable pensioners died of malnutrition in the same period, while nearly 2,000 passed away from superbugs Clostridium difficile and MRSA.

It is feared the totals may be higher because care home residents who die in hospital are not included in the statistics.

Commenting on the figures, Neil Duncan-Jordan of the National Pensioners Convention, said: "The fact that people are dying from these sorts of causes is absolutely shocking in the 21st century."

The Office for National Statistics compiled the figures after analysing death certificates of care home residents in England and Wales between 2005 and 2009. The totals cover both underlying causes of death and contributory factors.

Analysts found there were 667 victims of dehydration, 157 of malnutrition and 1,928 deaths linked to superbugs.

Some 1,446 died suffering with pressure ulcers, otherwise know as bedsores, while 4,866 died with septicaemia, or blood poisoning. Another 4,881 had fatal falls.

According to the figures, the number of deaths linked to dehydration doubled, while those involving superbugs rose sevenfold during the previous Labour government's rule.

Speaking in The Daily Mail, Mr Duncan-Jordan added: "What it shows is that a significant number of older people in our care homes are getting substandard, third-rate attention. Yet the cost of staying in a care home is huge - the average is between £600 and £800 a week.

"And yet for that, no one helps you eat your meals, no one ensures you are properly turned in bed, and no one makes sure you have had enough to drink.

"All of us would want higher standards of service for £800 a week.

"These people in our care homes will have seen a lot in their lifetime. For them to be treated in that way is nothing sort of scandalous."

Figures suggest that more than 20,000 people have to sell their homes every year in order pay residential care fees.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow, said: "It comes as a shock for many that care is not free - and never has been - and without advanced planning it can be very expensive.

"Having sorted out the family finances to pay for care there should at least be the comfort of knowing that their loved one will receive dedicated, expert care.

"But while there are excellent homes it is simply unacceptable that people still die undignified deaths from wholly avoidable causes.

The Liberal Democrat put the present "broken care system" down to the previous Labour government.

"Labour let people down by failing to reform the way we pay for care," he said.

"They kicked it into the long grass for nearly 13 years and failed to deliver a settlement.

"Before this Parliament is over we will have reformed both the law and funding of social care putting in place a firm foundation for a fairer care system."