Posts Tagged ‘elderly care’

A new era for health and social care or just wishful thinking?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Social care is a key battleground upon which the 2015 general election will be fought, emphasised yesterday by Ed Miliband’s pledge to reform the sector in order to improve its efficiency.  The system has been under intense pressure and scrutiny in recent years, and several failings in the past months such as ‘bed blocking’ and severe cuts to council care budgets have been widely criticised by the press and in previous Prestige blogs.

The Labour leader has given his vision of how social care organisation and delivery will look under a Labour government, which when implemented would mark a radical reform of the service. One key feature is that the prevalent and widely condemned culture of 15 minute visits would be disposed of, in a move which would bring many who are currently receiving a bare standard of care back into the fold. The service would be merged with the NHS in a far-reaching overhaul in order to create a more efficient and streamlined service. Staff shortages would be dealt with by the recruitment of an extra 36,000 personnel – 5,000 of whom would be care workers.

While Prestige is positive about any plans to boost social care’s efficiency and end many of the budgetary problems plaguing it, more details are needed about exactly how this would be achieved. Firstly, firm answers are needed about how changes would be funded. While talk of an extra £2.5bn a year for the NHS is all well and good, the public need a clear breakdown of where this will come from rather than vague rhetoric about mansion taxes and  closing loopholes. Secondly, merging social care services with the NHS – one of the World’s biggest organisations – will undoubtedly be difficult. If done well, it would signal a new era for the healthcare system and one in which individual needs are considered and delivered. However, the parties involved must avoid getting bogged down in red-tape and bureaucracy while failing to see the larger picture. Communication is key and it is imperative that each different area in the sector works together to achieve a positive end result.

NICE guidance welcome but funding the only way to solve the NHS crisis

Monday, January 19th, 2015

The latest guidance from NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) offers instruction to A&E departments on how to ensure safe levels of nursing staff. This follows recent news that more people than ever are waiting longer to be seen at A&E – a problem likely to be exacerbated by the worsening weather predicted in the coming weeks. The guidance continues to stress the need for adequate numbers of staff to meet rising demand and pressures from an ageing population and more people with long-term conditions, while still ensuring a good standard of care.

The news, published in The Telegraph, that A&Es will be forced to declare nurse shortages is an interesting addition to the guidance that has the potential to give patients and their families greater scrutiny over care. Due to concerns about severely short-staffed units, NICE guidance calls for a maximum of four patients per nurse and believes that hospitals without the correct staffing levels should have to inform the public. This comes following widespread evidence of staff shortages and overcrowding across the NHS, as well as failings in the length of time people are required to wait and the standard of care that patients eventually receive.

Similarly, an article in The Guardian highlights the NICE suggestion that patients should be moved in instances of extreme overcrowding or additional staff brought in from other wards to address the shortages. While the benefits of such guidelines are clear to see, they fail to address exactly how this would be achieved in a time of funding cuts, staff shortages and greater demand on services across the entire health and social care sector – not just in A&E.

Legitimate concerns remain that many hospitals will simply be unable to meet the requirements set out by NICE. For example, it is not clear where the spare staff would come from. What is clear, however, is the need for all parties in the run-up to the election to come up with a cohesive and comprehensive plan to invest in the NHS and increase recruitment efforts. Greater emphasis on budgets and staffing levels must be taken into account as funding remains the key factor in solving the NHS crisis.

 

 

The solution to bed-blocking lies closer to home than policymakers think.

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Recent articles in the Guardian and the Times have revealed the shocking extent of bed-blocking across the NHS and how alarmingly common it is in certain UK hospitals. Bed-blocking has been examined in previous Prestige blogs, and refers to situations in which individuals who – although well enough to leave hospital – are detained due to a lack of external care provision required to meet their post-hospital needs. The Guardian’s research found that in some hospitals, such as Addenbrooke’s in Cambridgeshire, as many as 87 beds out of a possible 1,000 are occupied by bed blockers.

Widespread policy failures lie at the heart of this problem. Social care has for the most part been neglected by successive governments when pursuing healthcare agendas, resulting in an underfunded sector that often lacks a cohesive national policy. Councils often lack the necessary funds to actively meet the care requirements of those leaving hospital, which can result in long term hospital stays for the vulnerable.

On an individual level, this unnecessarily exposes the elderly to hospital viruses, isolates them and keeps them away from their homes and family for prolonged periods of time. On a systematic level, it can add huge amounts of pressure and cost to the NHS through limiting bed spaces and resources.

Prestige is a champion of homecare and knows that it can alleviate the pressures that bed blocking is putting upon NHS resources. Not only is homecare more cost effective than care homes (many of which cost more than councils are willing to pay), but it can also provide familiar and friendly setting in which the vulnerable are looked after.

Despite the negative case study provided in this article, home care and special support perform an invaluable role by allowing frail or unwell elderly people to return home. In many cases it means people can leave hospital sooner with guaranteed support for tasks in the home that would otherwise be too much. Yet constant cuts to social care budgets have undermined the work of local authorities, councils and the CQC, slowing their ability to get people back home and into the community.’

With the battle lines in the lead up to the election clearly drawn around the NHS and social care, all parties need to demonstrate their commitment to improving funding levels and reducing inefficient bureaucracy, red tape and loopholes. Only by doing this will the industry be able to operate effectively, with the best interests of the patient in mind and a reduced focus on the ‘bottom line’.

End loneliness at Christmas – the importance of increasing society’s awareness of dementia

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

According to The Daily Express, hundreds of thousands of dementia sufferers will be spending Christmas alone – with many of their family members unsure how to deal with their diagnoses.  A report from the Alzheimer’s Society found that around two thirds of those with dementia feel that they are less likely to be invited to Christmas festivities following the onset of the disease.

Not only are dementia patients increasingly likely to face Christmas Day alone, but other aspects of the festive season are also likely to pose difficulties. The research also highlighted that four-fifths of sufferers believe that shops do not do enough to help those with dementia, showing the broader impact that it can have on experiencing a normal Christmas – or indeed on everyday life.

Going into 2015, Prestige hopes that public understanding of dementia will be greatly enhanced. The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that in 2015 there will be 850,000 individuals living with Dementia – a substantial number. In light of the ever increasing number of sufferers, it is now more important than ever that something is done to change perceptions and make life easier for those struggling with the disease and their families.

One attempt at raising dementia’s profile amongst the public is the recent ’Dementia Friends’ campaign, which provides an excellent foundation for creating a society that is attuned to sufferers’ needs. You may have already seen this year’s advert, aired in May 2014, which starred a host of celebrities including Lily Allen, Chris Martin, Ray Winstone and Paul O’Grady, singing a cover of the Beatles “I get by with a little help from my friends”.

By utilising household names across a variety of media channels, the campaign will undoubtedly help to make people more aware of what they, as individuals, can do to help the fight against dementia. Furthermore, organisations such as the Dementia Action Alliance, of which Prestige Nursing + Care is a member, are actively working to bring existing dementia initiatives together with the aim of spreading awareness. By providing tips and information to the wider public, we hope to see a noticeable difference in the day-to-day lives of those living with dementia.

Throughout 2015 we believe that greater public awareness and acknowledgement of the plight of dementia sufferers is critical. As more and more people are diagnosed with the disease, it is vital that society as a whole is equipped to provide even just basic support to improve the lives of those who have to live with it.

NHS pledge will appear in Autumn Statement but wider solutions need to be considered too

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, believes that an additional £1.5 billion for the NHS  will appear in the Autumn Statement next week, according to an article in The Guardian. This pledge comes a month after the chief of the NHS called for an extra £8 billion from the new government over the next five years, and is an indication that the government is moving in the right direction toward addressing and fixing the challenges faced by the NHS and the wider health and social care sector.

The NHS has experienced increased pressure with an influx of 1.3 million more people going to A&E than in the last Labour government and is therefore something that needs to be addressed now. Clegg also noted that the impact of an ageing population, which is expected to increase by 15 million in 20 years’ time, is another major reason for additional money needing to be allocated.

One main issue facing the NHS as a result of the increase in the elderly population is bed blocking in UK hospitals. A recent Telegraph article talks about how hospitals are being forced to evict elderly patients who are well enough to go home but remain in hospital. This is because loved ones are ill-equipped or unable to look after their elderly family members who require some level of support but have been hit by Council cuts to providing care.

While the additional money being sent toward the NHS will hopefully help with this problem to an extent, by allowing hospitals to afford more beds and nurses to look after patients, additional solutions need to be considered.

Previous Prestige blogs have addressed the difficulties facing family members who cannot care for their loved ones due to job requirements or other family care commitments. Greater support from the community and introduction of community care is one possible solution. This would provide support to families and also counter the loneliness that many elderly people feel when living along. Alternatively, home care can offer welcome relief to families as this can ensure that their elderly parents or grandparents are being properly looked after and cared for.

Such a solution is often a cheaper option to care homes, and includes multiple benefits, highlighted in other Prestige blogs, such as prolonged independence. We therefore welcome any additional funding for the NHS but urge the government to consider a holistic approach to social care so that individual needs are considered and the best solution for that person adopted.

Overworked GPs putting patients at risk, alternative solutions required

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Recent inspections by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have highlighted one in six GP surgeries as being at high risk of providing poor quality care, according to a recent article from The Guardian. Following an inspection of 7,661 surgeries, 1,200 were identified as being at risk or elevated risk of providing insufficient or sub-standard care.

The inspections uncovered that one out of ten practices were considered high risk because they failed to provide up-to-date vaccines and medicines, provided flu jabs to too few elderly patients, did not employ enough practice nurses, and made it difficult for patients to book consultations in a timely manor. The criteria used by the CQC, highlighted in an article in the Daily Mail, also examined the number of elderly patients ending up in A&E as a result of not enough support.

Each of these inadequacies heightens the possibility of future risk to patients, a fact that is even more relevant to elderly patients who are already vulnerable to medical complications. To put it bluntly, the present system in which care for the elderly is primarily the responsibility of point-of-contact medical centres is failing large swathes of Britain’s elderly population.

Issues about quality of care for the ageing population are not new. Previous Prestige Blogs  have already noted this negative and worrying trend in Britain’s care for the elderly, while stressing the importance of alternative solutions, such as home care in order to reduce the risks. However, these new findings by the CQC serve to further emphasize the importance of other solutions after demonstrating that GPs are increasingly overstretched and risking patient wellbeing.

Home care can provide retirees with quality one-on-one care in the comfort of their own homes. This ensures that proper attention is provided and monitored at all times. Additional benefits of at home care are noted in other Prestige Blogs, and include lower costs than residential care homes and the fact that elderly patents can remain independent for longer.

Providing basic day-to-day support can also put-off the time when greater support is required, essentially acting as a preventative measure. Policymakers would therefore be wise to consider the virtues of homecare when thinking about the future of the British healthcare system, and the dual advantages of cost effectiveness and patient wellbeing that it can provide.

The appointment of a commissioner to represent the “voice” of the elderly

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Ex-Care Minister, Paul Burstow, has joined calls encouraging an appointment of an independent commissioner to represent the interests of the elderly in England. An article in The Telegraph revealed that ministers have been urged to appoint a new ‘Care Tsar’ as reports of poor quality care continue to surface. The commissioner would receive legal powers to acquire documents and conduct inquiries into any suspected social care failings. This would result in greater accountability for care homes, public institutions and future governments – a notable change from previous similar roles, in which elderly advocates were frustrated with the lack of real power they were granted.

The introduction of a commissioner would go some way to ensuring much needed consistency in holding failing care providers and institutions to account across the UK. It may also overcome the problem of watchdogs ‘backing off’ when legally challenged by unsatisfactory care homes so that quality standards are instead enforced efficiently.

A recent Prestige Nursing + Care blog highlighted that during the past two years, the number of complaints made by the public about social care provision has increased by 46%. This came with the admission by the chairmen of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that the elderly and vulnerable were being failed by the organisation designed to protect them.

Furthermore, a report by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales found that many older people are living an unacceptable quality of life. A BBC News article declared that individual needs and personalities are not being catered to while supposedly being cared for, and instead patients were being institutionalised. The appointment of a ‘Care Tsar’ could therefore go some way in addressing these failures, to regain society’s confidence in the social care system and put the needs of the elderly first.

Yet, despite the benefits of a ‘Care Tsar’, it is important that the responsibility doesn’t become overly reliant on one person alone. Most important is that attitudes to providing care across the wider community also change. In a previous Prestige blog, we examined the need for greater consideration of alternative solutions such as home care and community care, rather than an over-reliance on care homes and the NHS. The idea thatthe elderly should be treated as individuals rather than a collective is key if social care providers are to successfully cater to the needs of the ageing population.

Prestige blog: health and social care voted most fulfilling sector to work in.

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

In a boost to the industry, health and social care has been voted the most fulfilling job to work in, according to a recent survey carried out by Randstad, the recruitment agency. It found that almost a quarter of the population view social and health care as the most fulfilling professional sector, which those who work in the sector themselves agree with: 29% put it in first place and cite patient wellbeing as far more important than receiving praise from their boss.

While this is a hugely positive result for the sector, it is in stark relief to the many unanswered challenges the care industry continues to face in terms of recruitment and retention. Despite the huge number of workers in the social care sector – totalling 6% of the UK workforce – this profession continues to be overlooked by many.

With the ageing population growing at such a rapid rate, the social care sector is struggling to employ an adequate number of people. A big part of the problem is that those looking for careers often forget about the wide range of opportunities in social care.

Previous Prestige blogs have noted the recruitment and retention difficulties among adult care workers, but recently care providers have begun efforts to attract more graduates into this important sector. More than a million additional workers are required over the coming years to cope with the growing needs of an ageing population. This cannot be achieved without addressing the issues at the crux of the matter: poor pay, a lack of funding and the need to implement a consistent training standard across the industry.

The issue of retention is also a major problem that the sector is trying to fix. A separate article from The Guardian  highlights the importance of the growing sector while also addressing how current care workers undervalue the work they do. The sector hopes to eliminate this thinking by showing just how vital its staff are to the well-being of the communities they serve as well as the UK economy.

Providers like ourselves similarly believe that recruitment and retention among care workers can be improved by increasing the public’s knowledge about the job opportunities available, and by presenting it as a long term and valuable career for those already working in the sector..

There are many challenges to overcome to attract and hold on to the number of care and social workers that the UK so desperately needs. However, it’s great to see recognition – not only within the sector but outside – of the worthwhile and fulfilling career that awaits them.

Importance of home care for an ageing population

Friday, October 31st, 2014

An article in The Telegraph this week highlighted the importance of home care to support an ageing population. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has pledged more than £5billion to ease pressures on hospitals by providing an additional 18,000 community workers and increasing the number of elderly people who are receiving home care to reduce needless hospital stays and visits.

As previous Prestige blogs have frequently highlighted, there are numerous benefits of home care for the elderly which are becoming increasingly clear to the UK population. These benefits include lower costs (than a residential care home), retained independence for longer, and perhaps most importantly the fact that home care allows elderly patients to receive the care they need in the comfort of their own home. It can also act as a preventative measure. By providing people with support for the tasks they find difficult it can delay more extensive care being required.

This comes as a welcome development, following the news that 350,000 will lose out on their help at home as tighter restrictions on the threshold for funding take their toll. When the benefits of home care are so clear to see, not only for the individuals in question but for the care and health system as a whole, it is critical that the government reforms and restrictions do not damage the positive impact of this service in the care sector. A more open-minded attitude should be taken to arrive at a holistic approach for improving health and social care, by incorporating home care, community care and others alongside the more traditional routes of NHS and GP services.

In order for home care to operate effectively there are a number of areas that still need to be improved. Currently, council cuts to funding have left providers struggling to offer enough care to those that require it. Pay and recruitment is another challenge with higher wages and greater levels of training needed to attract high quality staff and to encourage more people to view care as the long-term and worthwhile career it is.

The prospect of an influx of additional community workers is especially welcome as community care plays an invaluable role in supporting care and reducing the pressure on clinics and hospitals. They would also offer vital support to unpaid carers who face huge responsibility in caring for family members – as regular readers of this blog will be only too aware.

Social care reform for an ageing Britain

Friday, October 24th, 2014

People are living longer in Britain but little has been done to address how out of touch health and social care is with the needs of an ageing population.

Our current health and social care systems are not designed to satisfy the demands of an ageing Britain, as highlighted by this recent Guardian article. Britain’s welfare state was built during an era in which 48% of people died before the age of 65, which is clearly no longer the case. But it has failed to adapt its treatment of the elderly for an era in which over 80s are the fastest growing section of society, and radical action is called for. With ever more people living well into their late seventies and eighties, care requirements and costs have become far more pronounced – yet little has been done to alleviate the strain that this places upon services and families.

A recent study by Newcastle University showed that the average 80-something has four or five ailments requiring attention. This makes the present system in which GP clinics are designed to deal quickly with a mass of single-issue patients seem redundant, and suggests an alternative approach is needed. Just as important to structural reform, however, is an adjustment in society’s attitude to the elderly.

This societal lack of regard for the needs of the elderly is also apparent in matters of social care. It is vital that more is done to counter society’s attitude towards the elderly. Recently – as highlighted by this Prestige Nursing + Care blog – there have been suggestions that care home inspectors apply a ‘mum test’ and this sort of attitude could be encouraged throughout the sector. By treating the elderly more as individuals rather than a collective we should start to target some of negative sentiments or impressions of being a burden.

The largest concerns about how the care sector and NHS will continue to function come down to cost and lack of resources. An immediate way to counter this is by moving services into the community. For example, domiciliary care can provide an effective alternative. Not only can it significantly save money and increase available space and resources in hospitals, but it also offers a much more personable approach to those seeking care, therefore tackling costs, resources and attitudes. Understanding the needs of this ever-growing elderly demographic, and adjusting health and social care to tackle the challenges head on, is clearly necessary and will be beneficial for everyone.