Why We Should Care About Care

The declining state of residential and nursing care systems in this country is, like so many services, something that has been bundled into the welfare cuts introduced by the Coalition – and now that the Conservatives have a majority it is set to worsen.

While the Tories have promised billions of pounds to the NHS an equally pressing (and in many ways the more important) concern is the lack of social services support on which most preventative and after-care services rely. In the case of the elderly, if a person living alone has a fall within their own home and are taken to hospital they are not allowed to return until a social worker has done an appraisal to make sure they will be safe living alone. Due to the pressure this puts on already over-stretched local social services not all of these assessments can be undertaken promptly and leads to elderly patients (who do not have anything physically wrong with them) taking up hospital beds in a number of departments – and more critically in A&E departments.

By increasing investment in local social service networks a lot of the ‘backlog’ issues can be addressed and therefore save time and money for local councils, NHS Trusts and the tax payer, as well as (and most importantly) improving the health and well-being of the most vulnerable. As part of the increased investment into local social services, increased investment and regulation of residential/nursing care homes (to act as part of the local social services network) can improve care for residents of these homes and help relieve additional pressure on the NHS. Again to use the state of elderly care as an example, under current guidelines* the ratio of residents to carers can be as high as 8:1, and when many instances require two carers (such as if a resident cannot support their own weight and a hoist is required) this effectively increases the ratio to 16:1 pair of carers. If bills were introduced to increase the number of carers in these homes to a ratio of residents to carers of 4:1 then it would help create jobs, improve the welfare of the residents and allow for more person-centred care and allow the carers to spend more on-on-one time with vulnerable elderly people. By integrating residential/nursing care homes more thoroughly to provide out-patient and hospice support both private and council-run residential homes can provide the personal care and emotional support needed to allow other health care professionals to concentrate on their main duties.

While residential/nursing care homes provide support and care for those who cannot care for themselves alone the investment into, and the increased numbers of, day care centres for the elderly (to stay with this example) would allow the carers of those looking after a loved-one the much needed time and respite to improve their quality of life. The number of day care centres has decreased dramatically over the past 10 years despite the fact that private carers are some of the unsung heroes in our society.

The Liberal Democrats are a party that aims to help improve the lives and well-being of others. We have a real opportunity to campaign for the strengthening of social services to save money, save peoples dignity and, ultimately, save lives.

* The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority’s ‘Staffing guidance for Residential Care Homes’ June 2009

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