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.