By Debbie le Quesne

Rising cost of care cannot be ignored

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Alison Holt, social affairs correspondent with the BBC, recently wrote an online piece telling her experience of a man in his 80s whose wife was diagnosed with dementia.

It was a heart-rending read about the man’s solitude and the slipping into “another world, the world of social care.”

As a rule of thumb she notes that although the NHS delivered the diagnosis, with a condition like dementia one largely steps into the social care arena.

Using this personal encounter as a hook for the reader, she rightly observes “whatever strains there are on the social care system now will only increase”

We’ve seen the headlines recently about the pressures on A&E and what happens to the health service when there isn’t enough care in place in the community to either prevent problems or to help people recover at home.

Social care certainly isn’t the only reason why hospitals started the year struggling, but it is a significant factor.

Fact: Local authorities are chronically underfunded. Holt notes in response the government says it has provided an extra £1.1bn in funding in the last year alone and that it is for councils to set their spending priorities.

But the ageing population is growing and with that comes care needs – and a lot of them

The King’s Fund think tank fears the current outlook is far bleaker than most people realize and doubles much play will be made of care as the General Election spin machinery gets into top gear.

All the main parties agree there has to be better integration of health and social care.

The new Care Act now places a duty on local authorities to provide people with information about services, even if they aren’t entitled to council help. That’s good news. But the news I really want to hear, along with my West Midland Care Association members, is that realistic funding is being provided to allow care for our most vulnerable to continue at the proper level.

The private sector takes up the lion’s share of social care and frankly too many businesses have not got their just rewards for the care they deliver.

Holt adds: “The number of people aged 65 and over in England has increased by 1.4 million since 2004

“All the main parties say that there has to be better integration of health and social care. They each have their plan to draw the two systems closer, but it will demand real change if we are to cope with the increases in the elderly population that lie ahead.”

I join with her fears when she writes: “If we ignore the problem or make piecemeal changes around the edges, then the fear is that it will leave many more people struggling to cope, facing huge financial and emotional pressures until something gives.”

Her comment I suspect addresses personal costs of care. The same observation can equally be applied to care providers, for many of them are indeed struggling to cope.

Election looming: I wonder what vain promises on care funding will tumble from the lips of our politicians. Can I believe any of them? Not any more.

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