Four months to get toenails cut

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ELDERLY residents in Sheffield care homes are waiting up to four months to get their toenails cut - and resorting to paying up to £17 for it to be done privately instead.

The waiting time for foot care from trained NHS providers is so long that elderly residents are being forced to pay for a private carer to do the job instead, a patient group has found.

Some care homes have given up referring to the NHS Podiatry service altogether, advising all residents to pay privately, according to patient group Sheffield Local Involvement Network LINk, which raises the issue in a report into the city’s 91 care homes.

One in three older people are unable to cut their own toenails because of poor eyesight or problems bending down, according to Age UK.

“Significant numbers of older people are paying for private chiropody services at prices varying from £5 to £17 per session,” the report says.

“It is difficult to know for certain what type of foot care they are paying for but we know many are for toenail cutting only.

“We found some care home staff will file people’s toenails and some won’t, leaving people with little choice but to pay for this.”

It adds: “Many care home staff we interviewed said they have referred people to the NHS Podiatry service, but the waiting time is perceived as so long that people decide to pay for this privately.

“Some say they have given up referring to this service and advise residents to opt for the private chiropodist.”

According to its own targets, the podiatry service should see all non-risk patients within three months, the report said, but over the last year its performance had ‘slipped’ to four months. Emergency cases are seen within 48 hours and high-risk patients are seen within four weeks.

The city has just four NHS podiatrists to cover 500 referrals a month.

The report added: “As a consequence of low staff numbers, the amount of podiatry training offered to care home staff has to be reduced and the service struggles to keep to its maximum waiting times.

“The importance of appropriate, high-quality foot care was acknowledged in order to maintain the best possible mobility and prevent falls.”

Sheffield LINk has urged the city’s new Clinical Commission Group – which will replace the NHS Primary Care Trust in April and is currently running in shadow form – to address the problem urgently.

Kevin Clifford, chief nurse at the NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We welcome the report from Sheffield LINk that states that overall the quality of care in Sheffield care homes is of a high and reassuring standard.

“We will now work together with all involved to digest the report and consider the recommendations from LINk about how we can continue to enhance and maintain the standard of service our patients and residents deserve.”