Posts Tagged ‘elderly care’

Protection needed for social care funding to avoid another crisis

Friday, February 20th, 2015

NHS crises could increase without the protection of social care funding as thousands of vulnerable people risk missing out on vital services. A recent article in Public Finance explains that local government leaders have called on Chancellor George Osborne to use next month’s Budget as a way to put social care funding on a ‘sustainable financial footing’. Specifically, the Chancellor is being urged to protect the funding in order for councils to better support the NHS.

This winter has shown first-hand the problems that come with an underfunded social care system, which places added pressure on an already stretched NHS. The combined pressures of insufficient funding with growing demands highlights the urgent need for a long-term solution. According to homecare.co.uk, thousands of people are at risk of seeing loved ones deprived of access to care services that would allow them to remain independent. Instead, older or vulnerable people are being left in hospital beds due to a lack of support that would help them to otherwise live in their own homes, a trend frequently referred to as bed-blocking and covered by previous Prestige Nursing + Care blogs.

Currently, many elderly are not being supported with daily tasks such as washing, dressing or leaving the house. This leads them to rely on family and friends for assistance, often driving relationships to a ‘crisis point’. Without the funding protection, the social care system could push local services too far resulting in a much wider crisis of support.

Health experts and council leaders warn that forcing councils to cut already underfunded social care while protecting and investing money in the NHS is a false economy, as this Care Appointments article argues. The 40 per cent cut in local government budgets is forcing councils to make impossible decisions on which services they provide.

Clearly a cohesive and efficient solution is required to avoid the same pressures occurring year after year. As the population continues to age and encounters more health problems than ever before as a result, it is imperative that we adapt to provide social care providers with the funds and support they need to deliver high quality care. This in turn would reduce the burden on the NHS so both can function effectively.

Special measures and treatment of whistle-blowers highlight importance of accountability.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

According to a recent Guardian article, investigations into poor patient care have been cited as appalling and inadequate, and have let down numerous patients – a worrying sign that lessons have not been learnt from recent hospital scandals. Tens of thousands of people each year fail to report failings by the NHS as they have no faith in the system and believe that complaining makes no difference.

Yet in cases where organisations and trusts have been held accountable and put in special measures as a response to failings, experts say the action has saved hundreds of lives. An article in The Independent shows the effects that the drastic measures, including assigning new managers, undertaking recruitment drives and appointing hundreds of new medical staff have had in improving standards for patient safety.

But more needs to be done. Recommended solutions include a complete overhaul of the complaints system to ensure that every incident is fully investigated. However, simply calling for everything to be restarted from scratch is not the answer. Of course we agree that all incidents should be investigated and learnt from but this approach fails to tackle the issue at the heart of the matter.

Instead, a change in attitudes is required, as set out by this article by The Telegraph which calls for reform to end the ‘cover- up’ culture within the NHS. Importantly, the drive behind this must not be to create a culture of blame but to prevent the same mistakes from ever happening again. Greater accountability and scrutiny would tackle the problem head on.

In the same vein, re-examining the treatment of whistle-blowers in the health and social care sector is also of paramount importance. In extreme cases whistle-blowers face losing their jobs or being ostracized, and many others are simply ignored. Instead this should be an effective way to ensure a high standard of care for patients and encourage experts in the area to voice concerns.

This would go a long way to help improve patient confidence in the sector – something that has suffered blow after blow in the wake of multiple recent scandals. Encouraging whistle-blowers and listening to employee concerns would show that the industry has nothing to hide and is committed to improving the quality of service while learning from past mistakes.

‘Hello, my name is…’ campaign highlights need for personalised, compassionate care.

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

 

Prestige Nursing + Care is a strong advocate of the importance of care employees working to build a personal relationship with those under their care, and believes that the recently launched “Hello, My name is…” campaign represents an excellent drive to enhance these relationships. The campaign is the brainchild of NHS consultant Dr. Kate Granger, who when undergoing treatment for aggressive cancer three years ago felt that “the lack of introductions made me feel like a diseased body and not a real person”.

 

“Hello, my name is…” aims to spread the importance and positivity that the construction of a personal relationship with a caregiver can provide a patient and – as this BBC article highlights – reminds staff to go back to basics to build trust. The campaign’s uptake has so far been strong. A massive 400,000 NHS members of staff have already committed to the campaign to build better personal relationships with those undergoing treatment, with employees in positions ranging from receptionists to cardiac surgeons represented.

 

Furthermore, over 100 NHS trusts have agreed to work to implement its principles and the Scottish Government announced an allocation of £40,000 to boards to roll the campaign out across the country. The campaign also effectively highlights the positive impact that cost-free gestures like a personable approach have on care quality, and will hopefully highlight their strategic importance to policymakers.

 

At Prestige we strongly believe in developing the relationship between those working in the health and social care sector and those who use its services. In the past we have written about the lessons that the health service can take from the way in which social care is conducted, for example, adopting a more collaborative and patient focused approach which treats each patient as an individual, not simply part of the collective. Hopefully this grass-roots movement will provide an excellent foundation for the NHS to further develop how it relates to patients, and highlight the importance of patient-provider relationships across the industry.

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.