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Care homes "insist on tube feeding"

Elderly and infirm patients may be put at risk by care homes who force them to be fitted with feeding tubes, according to the authors of a report from the Royal College of Physicians.

Homes refusing to admit patients not fitted with "nil by mouth" tubes inserted into their stomachs may claim they are acting in the interests of the patients, but there could be an ulterior motive of cutting costs and saving on staffing, said the authors of the report.

Doctors and nurses have been urged to make artificial feeding a "last resort" by the College, and an audit of 719 percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) procedures in 2004 found that one in five (19%) were "futile" and did not help to prolong life. The findings suggest that many patients are being fed through the tubes inappropriately.

Although unable to provide exact numbers on the homes who insist on patients with feeding tubes, report author Dr Rodney Burnham said: "It is fairly widespread, because every hospital and every nutrition team you talk to will have had that experience."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Royal College of Physicians

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"This has been exactly my experience in relation to my 90-year-old father. I was told today by the manager of the care home that the continuation of his stay was dependent on him having a PEG fitted" - Vivien Evans, Cardiff