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By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for January 2013

Care caterers are Guinness record champions

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I’ve always championed initiatives that raise the profile of care work no matter what that work is.

So I was thrilled when I stumbled on a story about The National Association of Care Catering (NACC) which has made history by successfully setting the first ever Guinness World Record for most community meals delivered in three hours.

It made me laugh out loud, but the record makers highlight the vital work Community Meals Service in the UK and the numbers who rely on this kind of service.

The official figures from Guinness World Records, released in January, state that the NACC delivered 526 community meals in three hours in 16 locations across England. The figure is 226 more than required to secure the title.

Community Meals providers across the UK successfully served the specifically-developed two-course menu of roast beef, potatoes and seasonal vegetables, rounded off with the Great British favourite pudding of apple crumble and custard to users of the service.

Confirmation of the NACC’s success came from Guinness some three months after the actual World Record attempt, which took place between 11am and 1pm on Monday 1 October 2012 – International Older Persons’ Day and the first day of NACC Community Meals Week, Care Industry News reported.

What is remarkable is that more than 20,000 elderly, housebound, or disabled people in the UK actually used the Community Meal lifeline between 11am and 1pm on Monday 1 October 2012.

This huge gap between official and unofficial figures is due to the very specific and detailed rules created by Guinness in order for the NACC to achieve the record.

The community mantra is heard much more frequently these days and it’s heartening that so many more people can keep their independence longer with care packages at home.

But in these austere times it’s essential that services like Community Meals continue.

As well as providing nutritious hot meals I would confidently assume that it also provides the sole source of regular human contact for an alarming number.

The old Meals on Wheels has had its day, but the need for such a service has not changed.

In sensible economics supply is usually generated by demand.

In care sector economics supply appears to be governed by auditors. I do hope this invaluable lifeline remains viable.

Welfare reform: Are the cuts really worse than what we thought?

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It becomes increasingly difficult to write about social care issues without appearing to make a political point.

I must point out that the West Midlands Care Association is not interested in scoring party points, but we will stand up and be counted if we believe care is being compromised by Government policy.

Simon Duffy, director of the Centre for Welfare Reform makes some interesting points in his Guardian online Professional People report.

One of the extraordinary features of the cuts programme, he observes, has been the fate of social care.

He writes: “At the same time as announcing the deepest cuts in public expenditure since the creation of the welfare state, there have been several pronouncements about extra funding for social care and how any failure to safeguard services for disabled children, adults or older people would be because of failings in local government.”

He cites the 2010 comprehensive spending review that declared that there would be “£2bn a year of additional funding by 2014-15 to support social care”.

But adds: “However, a closer examination of these figures shows it was merely a statistical manipulation, achieved by closing one small funding stream, restarting it and then publishing the cumulative figure for a five-year period. The truth is very different.

 

“In fact, over the past two-and-a-half years, social care has already experienced a devastating cut of over £4bn per year, about 16 per cent.

“By 2015, it will have been cut by more than £8bn per year (about 33 per cent). And there is a very simple and powerful reason for this. By 2015, local government in England needs to make an annual real term cut of £16bn (40 per cent of its central funding) and social care makes up 60 per cent of real local government spending.”

Interestingly, he points out that “most of the funding we associate with local government, such as education, is ring-fenced from the worst of the cuts. It is social care which must bear the biggest share of local cuts.”

I believe the movers and shakers of Social Services departments across the country all know they are stuck fast in this head-in-the-sand purge for savings.

There’s a whole load of spin and PR too that seems to suggest that local authorities ‘are to blame’ for the pain of cuts. Indeed, they are, but they are in reality dancing to the tune of a Whitehall piper.

Mr Duffy suggests “There are so many different cuts hidden within the so called ‘welfare reforms’ that it is a constant effort to keep up with the next attack. “

He points to The Centre for Welfare Reform’s latest report A Fair Society? How the Cuts Target Disabled People. The reading is shocking.

Mr Duffy writes: “People needing social care are hit by a double whammy of benefit cuts and social care cuts. Our analysis shows that, while most of us face cuts in services or income equivalent to £467, people in poverty face cuts totalling £2,195 per person, and disabled people face cuts totalling £4,410 per person.

“Disabled people (including children and older people) with the most severe disabilities, those entitled to social care, will face the biggest cut of all – an average cut of £8,832. This cut is 19 times greater than the cut falling on most other citizens.”

The reading is so stark, so bleak, I have to assume it really can’t be that bad. Or is it and we are being swept along, unable to grasp the full reality of the cuts we are trying to survive?

Community caring: A new voice in the chorus of change

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Domiciliary care agencies have been saying it for years, and now the NHS Confederation is adding to the chorus.

GP and community services should receive a higher proportion of NHS spend to enable more care to be carried outside hospital, says the Confederation chief.

Mike Farrar said in his New Year message that he would like to see ‘more investment in primary, community, mental health and social care services as a proportion of the total spend’.

And wouldn’t we all?

An article in PULSE online reported him as saying: ‘For instance, untreated mental illness costs the NHS over £10billion in physical healthcare costs every year. And delayed transfers in care – often a result of the right support not being in place – currently cost the NHS £545,000 per day (approximately £200 million per year).

I never realized so much money was being wasted this way.

He adds: ‘Increasing money in these areas will help keep people out of hospital and leading independent lives, accessing care in their own homes, or closer to home.’

And no doubt that some of that cash could be spent by social services commissioning on private sector community care. Like those running care home businesses, rates for the job are currently diabolically poor.

Mr Farrar also called on clinicians to ‘provide a better explanation of “safe and effective cases for change” that will improve the quality of local services’ and support ‘courageous politicians who put their population’s health above their own electoral health’.

Nicely put Mr Farrer!

He added: ‘If we want to ensure that our health service is improving in the long-term, not just running to stand still, then fundamental change is necessary. We should all be concerned about the future of the NHS and we should all be active in finding the best solutions.’

Yes, like having grown-up dialogue between all care agencies; like putting an end to an autocratic approach to ‘solutions’; like more money to furnish creative care that can be achieved and delivered; like giving us some direction; and perhaps, most of all, listening to the people who actually try to deliver care.Image

Changing the perception of a care home

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We all know that the face of care is changing radically, but residential homes with private members’ clubs – now that really is setting the bar at a new height.

And I think I’m really warming to the concept unveiled by Carebase Ltd which will, in their own words, make the new build into a “social destination”.

The movers and shakers of top-market provider have to welcome in the local community from the outset and so membership of its private members’ club, The Riverly Club, will be open to a number of older people from Abingdon where the luxury care home is situated.

This innovative approach is one that has been championed by Baroness Greengross as she believes it is essential for care homes to become a hub for the local community and that integration is vital for overturning the negative perception that many people have about care homes.

I agree. It’s a fabulous, though brave, concept.

She said in an interview with carehome.co.uk “We have to change the image of care homes and see them as providing something positive to the community instead of as a last resort.

“If you get care homes right, care homes can be a spearhead for outreach action in the local community.”

She added: “People from the local community should be able to visit the care home and do activities there such as have their hair done or watch a film so it becomes a local hub.

“The care home should be providing services for the local community. Some care homes and a few retirement villages are already going some way towards doing this but not on the scale I mean. Years ago I wrote a book on this. It is something we need to encourage. I want the care home to be the initiator.”

All residents of Bridge House will automatically become members of The Riverly Club and will be able to access all of its facilities, including a spa, wellness centre, cinema, café, bar and library.

This, by definition, is care for the well-heeled. Bridge House will be seriously 5-star.

Set near to the river and Abbey Gardens it will provide a unique draw – for those with money to spend.

In the modernization of care treatments we now have dental practices which are uniquely boutique in design and now the trend is spreading to the care sector.

I am both heartened and saddened by this project. Heartened because it pushes the boundaries of pre-conception but saddened because I can think of no investors who would be brace enough to commit to such a build in the Midlands.

The home will house up to 71 older people when it opens in March this year.

Common sense on complex care amidst more economic gloom

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The weekend’s almost here and it’s starting to snow. Great! And just to top it all, I learn tonight on the news headlines we are in a triple-dip recession.

Quite how this latest bad news will drill down to the private sector, I’m not sure. But one thing is certain – the effect will not be good.

Earlier today I read a piece in Brunswicks Healthcare Review highlighting the need for our private sector to work hand-in-glove with the NHS,

Care homes and NHS healthcare services must work more closely together, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire.  The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research (NIHR HS&DR) Programme.

Most long term care for older people is provided by independent care homes, the report said.

Many of these people have complex needs and are the oldest and frailest of the population. Yet their access to NHS services is inconsistent and determined by local custom and practice rather than the particular needs of the care home residents, the report adds.

Professor Claire Goodman, at the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care, said: “It is very clear that closer working and better integration of NHS services can promote more effective healthcare of older people living in care homes, and there are many good examples of where individual practitioners or services have tried to achieve this.  

“However, our research found that there was not a particular model of working that ensured older people received consistent care, and few systems in place to evaluate what is being achieved. “

It’s when I read material like this I have to endorse radical changes in the care for our elderly. But they need to be ‘real-world’ achievable changes.

As the economy sinks further, less and less resources are being decanted into the care for the elderly.

Just about everyone who is anyone in the care sector are driving impossible budget savings and  feel professionally compromised by unyielding cuts.

Many different NHS services visit older people in care homes, and they are very aware of the need to improve the way they work with the care homes to deliver their service. This has led to the development of a range of initiatives that range from the funding of NHS beds in care homes to the creation of specialist roles designed to promote better working between primary care and the care homes.

However, the study showed that tensions exist between the ways that the NHS services and the care homes provide care to older people. NHS services focus on diagnosis, treatment and support at specific times, whereas care homes prioritise on-going support and relationships that nurture a continuous review of the older person’s care.

Sadly the study also found that access to NHS services and identification of older peoples’ health care needs hardly ever involved joint review or discussion with care home staff, and even more rarely did it include the older person or one of their family.

Quite rightly, the study suggests that NHS services need to see care homes as partners in care and not just the solution to the problem of where to place older people who can no longer live at home. 

Time for tea to help fund better dementia care

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Dementia UK is calling for us to get the kettle on and make tea (I think I need a cup now).

The organization is looking to drum up support for  their Time for a Cuppa campaign; an annual, mass participation fundraising event, which this year runs from March 1 – 8.

Time for a Cuppa is dedicated to raising money to provide more Admiral Nurses – highly trained mental health nurses provided exclusively by Dementia UK to families and individuals who are affected by dementia.

These specialist nurses to an invaluable job.

Unfortunately there are not nearly enough in the UK and it is now, like so many other services,  a ‘postcode lottery’ dictates who will receive this vital help.

This year’s  campaign was officially launched in November by Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey’s Mrs Hughes), who joined Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurses at Kensington Palace to show her support for a cause close to her heart.

Phyllis’ own family has been affected by dementia, and she has called for action to be taken to address the problems faced by family careres. I can only imagine the challenges facing these famililies.

During the week-long event, people across the country are encouraged to get together to hold a tea party.

Joanna Westley, Head of Fundraising and Communications at Dementia UK explains: “Time for a Cuppa is a great social activity for staff and residents at care homes, and our campaign fundraising pack and website contain some fantastic resources for anyone looking for inspiration, including games and recipe ideas.

“It is all of our responsibility to make life better for families affected by dementia and we call on the care industry to do its part by hosting a Time for a Cuppa party. Registration levels are currently down in comparison to this time last year so we need the industry to support what is a vital funding source for Dementia UK’s provision of Admiral Nurses.”

Come on, we need to support this great initiative.

Rosie Holman, Activities Co-ordinator at Brambles Care Home in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex (last years’ Time for a Cuppacompetition winner) describes their experience of the hosting an event: “We supported Dementia UK’s Time for a Cuppa campaign by hosting a Mad Hatter tea party, which commenced with a tea themed quiz, downloaded from the Time for a Cuppa website, as well as a tea themed session of Bingo. The latter was also adapted from the Time for a Cuppa website, and included pictures as well as words to ensure that residents with severe dementia could join in too. The event was a resounding success and we were thrilled to raise £320 for this important cause.”

Want to get involved? For information on how to host an event, or to download a fundraising pack, visit www.timeforacuppa.org.

Capping: Fears over £75,000 limit and the saga goes on and on

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At the backend of last year there were rumblings that pensioners will pay up to £75,000 but no more for their long-term care in old age.

Now, according to The Telegraph newspaper, the reforms agreed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, may well be officially tabled before Parliament next week. Under the plan elderly and disabled adults will be given state protection against unlimited care home fees for the first time.

That all sounds good; but is it?

Shadow Social Care Minister, Liz Kendall, says ministers must implement a “carefully balanced package” drawn up by an independent commission and she’s alarmed that the original Dilnot proposals are being shelved.

Quite apart from the politics of this powder-keg debate, I do have personal issues with the way this whole affair has been handled.

In a government-appointed initiative, Andrew Dilnot was tasked with finding a way forward.

As an economist, he surely would have structured a carefully balanced package of measures. The government now seems to be ignoring the very advice it sought, I’m puzzled – you pay for advice: Then you ignore it!

No doubt our elderly will be encouraged to buy private insurance to cover them up to the new limit. This is all making me feel uncomfortable.

What I want people to know is ably stated by Ms Kendall in a Guardian online report.

She is quoted: “It is vital that people understand the Dilnot ‘cap’ doesn’t cover what the individual actually pays but to what their local council would pay – and the average local authority rate for a single nurse-care room in southern England was £470 a week in 2010-11.

“This means in practice the elderly person wouldn’t reach the cap for over five years. The average length of stay for residents in a Bupa care home – which includes state and self-funders – is around two years, and for homes like those run by Partnership UK which are entirely self-funded – is around four years. In other words, the elderly resident would be dead before they hit the Dilnot ‘cap’.”

Currently, one in 10 adults faces a lifetime bill of more than £100,000 for care.