ABUSE of vulnerable elderly and disabled people in Worcestershire has increased dramatically in the space of a year, according to a shocking new health report.

Figures show that there were 442 referrals of vulnerable adults to social care services in Worcestershire in 2009/09, a 72 per cent increase on the previous year when there were only 257 referrals which in turn increased from 97 referrals the year before that.

People can be referred to the service who have suffered domestic violence in the home, physical abuse in a nursing home or who have suffered other forms of emotional, psychological or sexual abuse whether at home, in care or in the workplace.

Referrals can be made by a family member, friend, health workers, carers, police or even the individuals themselves.

The findings of the Worcestershire Safeguarding Adults Board annual report issue were discussed at a meeting of the NHS Worcestershire.

The increase has been attributed partly to higher levels of reporting and better data collection.

According to the figures a quarter of the abuse (26 per cent) was physical, 25 per cent financial, 18 per cent neglect, 17 per cent emotional and psychological, eight per cent sexual and five per cent institutional.

The vast majority of cases of abuse related to people over the age of 65 - there were 36 referrals to the older people’s team in Worcester, 60 in Wychavon, 60 in Redditch and Bromsgrove, 27 in Wyre Forest, 24 in Malvern.

Sandra Rote, director of clinical development and executive nurse lead with NHS Worcestershire, said the rise should be seen positively as it showed that more people were reporting abuse so something could be done about it.

Mrs Rote added: “Although it is a really shocking thing to find in our care homes it is positive in that at least people are reporting it. We have a whole team of nurses that go into care homes on a regular basis to assess people’s eligibility for nursing care. Increasingly there time is being spent on adult safeguarding issues. We do need to keep working at it so it has the same sort of status as children’s services.”

David Clark, of Worcester’s Age Concern, said the organisation would help anyone who contacted them.

He said: “Some of the abuse that is now being recorded was never previously regarded as abuse but more like bullying.

“Very often they don’t want to report it, especially if it’s in the family.

“All we can do is make people aware of it, especially the elderly, and give them the avenue to report it and complain about it.”

A police spokesman said there were no specific figures available for crimes against elderly people because until recently they were not recorded separately.

From now on officers have now started to record the crimes in their own category.