The Care Act – before the run up to the election there was some trumpet blowing publicity about how the new Care Act was the best thing since sliced bread; how it is going to benefit us all – those who need care, carers and families of people who need care. Even those who self fund all their care were/are going to benefit. Most boroughs had public meetings to inform everyone about the Care Act with part 1 coming into effect on the 1st April. Then… silence… or the occasional whimper.
Did you hear any mention of care/social care during the election campaigns by any party? There was an awful lot of noise about ‘saving’ the NHS, which all the political candidates could not emphasize enough, with all candidates putting themselves forward as the ‘saviour’ of the NHS and having a ‘plan’. But did any of them know what they were talking about or were they just jumping on the fashionable bandwagon? No one with any understanding of NHS services particularly in the community can talk about saving the NHS without talking about saving community and care services. They are joined at the hip – so how come we only had half the story?
We all know the reason why older patients or patients of any age needing help cannot be discharged from hospital is if there are no services available in the community. We know the reason for many people ending up in A & E is due to no access to services in the community. Informal carers who are providing 24/7 care for family or friend are becoming ill themselves as there is no access to community services – the majority of these carers are mid 80’s.
Local Authorities have had their budgets cut and so have had to cut services, which in turn means that many people who could remain independent with that little bit of help go downhill more quickly so they need more in the way of health services… which in turn means they need community and care services and as they are not available the person becomes less independent and has an increase in health issues – by this time, often with some anxiety and/or depression – and ends up in hospital where they cannot be discharged because there are no appropriate community and care services – it is a bit like a hamster running on a wheel – but why have successive governments allowed this state of affairs to occur?
There have been warning signs for years. There seems to have been little or no forward vision by politicians – if they had asked the general public, carers etc. they would have been given an appropriate forward vision but, of course, politicians see themselves as in an unique position with lots of new enthusiastic young graduates as advisors – so why would they want to actively listen to the general public – they know best!
The government is starting out on its five year reign and is mapping out its priorities. There is a lot about education, defence, overseas aid, immigration, the EU and health but where is social care? Are they going to continue to ignore social care? Are they going to continue with the same ineffective path of putting money into health particularly hospitals and A & E and at the same time cut budgets for social care? The Care Act is supposed to help integrate health and care but how can it when one part of the jigsaw is hardly visible?
Now is the time for the government to open it’s eyes and look at the NHS and care services in a holistic way. There is no way you can save the NHS without proper investment in social care and the additional cost of not providing social care services is huge both for the NHS and community services. People of whatever age are entitled to receive joined up appropriate and compassionate care to enable longer independence and for people to continue to contribute to society.
So will the government take the bull by the horns and provide proper investment in social care and community services? It is not as if the services are free –the users of the services are charged – many community services offer great value for money but don’t expect voluntary services to be run without any funding.
There needs to be a stop to the media and politicians blasting older people as ‘bed blockers’ – they are not – hospitals wisely refuse to discharge people where it is not safe to do so when there are no community care services and it should be remembered that all the governments emphasis on everyone must work means that there are no family members at home to give help or care. There needs to be a stop to the vicious circle of the last few years – stepping off the wheel onto a very clear strategy with details on funding and costs for users which is accessible and easy to use. To not take action will be devastating as the longer there is inaction – the more difficult and costly to repair the system.
So will this Government, by joining Social Care and the NHS at the hip, enable it to to walk?
Has it the courage and determination to make a difference or will they muddle on and hope that the next government in 5 years time will tackle the issue?
Will they ensure that the services that people need either from the NHS or community are available?
Will they ensure that people can continue to live their lives with dignity?
It is to be hoped so, otherwise heaven help us if we need services in the next five years or the future.