Thursday, 13 September 2012

New Ministerial Team MUST Act on Social Care Now

The latest figures from the NHS on council funded care services show, one again, that there has been an overall fall in the numbers of people receiving services. 110,395 less people received services in 2011/2012 a drop of 7%.

At the same time the Royal College of Physicians warn that acute hospital services are on the brink of collapse because of the increasing number of elderly patients, particularly those with dementia, they claim that many feel that older people ‘shouldn’t be there’ and are calling for a redesign of services to better meet patients need (click here for RCP press release).

In other words it appears we are seeing a reduction in community care services resulting in increased pressure on the NHS and this is an issue that needs to be tackled immediately.

This situation is one that can only get worse if left unchecked by the new Ministerial team at the Department of Health.

Kent County Council, for example, are proposing (in their 2013/14 budget consultation) to reduce spending on adult social care by £18m, a cut of 5% and while they claim to be able to do this without harming care services it certainly seems the reduction in council led services is only increasing those in the NHS. Undoubtedly other councils are proposing similar cuts in the adult social care budgets which will lead to more elderly people entering hospital.

The popular press has lead the campaign on who should pay for social care and it seems likely that the Dilnot proposals will be introduced. However this does not solve the issue of how much social care costs and, it seems now, we have some evidence that lack of funding in social care simply transfers the issue to the NHS and, undoubtedly costs the state more in the process.

Care for older people in England, particularly those with dementia, needs to be examined properly and the costs of providing the best possible care acknowledged.

It is only by properly assessing the cost of social care that the issue of who actually pays for it can be sorted.

We have a new Ministerial team in the Department of Health and they must put the care of the most vulnerable in society at the top of the list otherwise the crisis in care will only continue and lead to a greater crisis in health provision.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Ageing Process Does Not Stop to Wait for Politicians

Just 55 days after the publication of the Social Care White Paper, “Caring for our future: reforming care and support”, social care is once again in a situation of not really knowing what the future is.

The White paper was short on details on funding, after its publication Richard Humphries of the Kings Fund said “Despite its commitment in the “programme for government” to the urgency of reform, the government has failed to produce a clear plan for how care should be funded or a timetable for how these decisions will be considered.” (click here for full press statement).

Then in mid-august we start getting press reports that Prime Minister, David Cameron “has pledged to end the heartache of tens of thousands of elderly people who are forced to sell their homes to fund long-term care” (Daily Mail 16th Aug 2012) by introducing the Dilnot proposals and introducing a £35,000 cap on care costs.

What is unclear is the extent to which the Dilnot proposals will be implemented. The report by Andrew Dilnot applied the cap to care costs not stating that those in care homes should contribute to accommodation and food costs to the tune of £7,000 to £10,000 a year. Given that the current annual state pension is £5,587.40 pensioners in need of care home services would still need to find money from somewhere.

Because of this, as well as the increase in those who will be publicly funded and the greater overhaul of the system that will be needed if the full Dilnot proposals are introduced, the White Paper largely becomes redundant before its consultation period has even ended.

To top this all off the Ministerial architects of the White Paper and draft legislation, Andrew Lansley & Paul Burstow have been shipped out of the Department of Health, and the principle civil servant in creating the paper, David Behan, has now moved to the Care Quality Commission.

Where does this leave the thousands that need social care services, those who care for them, the thousands of workers providing care etc.

Whatever the political reasons for the change of heart about Dilnot and the reshuffling of Ministers we need, NOW, a statement from Number 10 on exactly what is happening, how things stand with the White Paper and draft legislation in order to reassure social care users and the social care sector that there will be no delay in implementing reform. Social care has become all too familiar with the prevarication of politicians and these changes in policy and the personnel delivering it must not be used as an excuse.

We have an ageing population with increasing need for social care services, the ageing process does not stop to wait for politicians so those politicians need to act now for the benefit of people who need care services now.