By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for November 2015

Black week on a Black Friday

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The working week ending November 20 will forever be a memorable one . . . more of a Black Week rather than Black Friday. Sorry, no bargains in this post, no happy results – just an overload of misery.

That particular week, like every week according to the media, the care sector was in trouble.

On Wednesday (Nov 18) another set of reports sounded sirens of crisis to the Government. To sum up, this is how it went . . . NHS facing 37,000-strong influx of elderly as care homes close – the victims of cash-strapped councils (think-tank ResPublica).

The Resolution Foundation also reported that just to cover the new minimum wage, the government needed to stump up £1,4bn to ensure it goes to the care workers.

And that’s just “stand-still” money, as one newspaper said.

Despite a sharp rise in the number of those aged over 80, the private care home sector lost 1,500 beds in the year to September due to closures, added industry analysts LaingBuisson.

The highly respected number crunchers warned of a “wave of closures” to come. Some 90 per cent are private, with nearly half their beds largely paid for by the state.

ResPublica’s figures claimed 37,000 more beds would be lost by 2020/21.

Then of course we had the CQC bombshell that inspections on 54 homes across the north found that 28 “required improvement” or were “inadequate”, and none were “outstanding”.

Unfortunately, the general public really haven’t a clue what’s going on. Closures make headlines only when old people are tipped out of their nursing homes.

And almost finally, private-equity company Terra Firma, owner of Four Seasons, which runs 450 care homes, announced they are selling off 53 homes due to sharp cuts in what councils pay.

Finally, I promise no more gloom for the day, the 46-bed Stoke House in Gedling, Nottinhamshire, has been put into special measures by the Care Quality Commission. Staff were just “too busy” to take patients to the toilet. Shameful business.

Disclaimer: I will not be held accountable for the mental health of those who have bravely read this blog.

Marching slower – a lesson for us all in adapting to ageing

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I really intended to do this earlier, so please forgive me if this appears a little overdue. Ifind Remembrance Day deeply moving as we recall past and present heroes of conflict.

Like so many others, I watched the news bulletins, observed a silent tribute and dipped in and out of the televised Cenotaph commemoration.

But I was also touched by a lovely tale in the Mirror where a Remembrance Day parade was slowed down because elderly veterans were worried they’d be left behind.

Ex-servicemen Robin Scott-Smith, aged 79, complained that he could hardly catch his breath at the march through last year.

Council bosses moved swiftly to announce they would “alter the pace accordingly” at this year’s parade in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

Mr Scott-Smith had said that some of the veterans were elderly and could not walk at the faster pace of the younger ones, and felt they could no longer take part.

Great outcome and a triumph for the elderly. Good isn’t it – one lone voice changed a whole parade and brought a whole new dynamic to personalised care. Well done, Robin.


Written by debbielq

November 27, 2015 at 9:50 am

How the Government is saving £132bn on care

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No-one these days appears to be arguing that carers should not be paid more for the invaluable work they do. The exchanges are more about where the funding will emerge to reward this valuable social asset.

As head of the West Midlands Care Association, I’ve campaigned with many others for the Government to throw a lifeline to the industry. I am aware good care saves our nation an absolute fortune.

Our media man has some great carers for his ailing wife on a direct payments arrangement. The care is so good nursing calls have been reduced form an average of 4.3 x2 visits per week, averaging eight hours of clinical time, to 1 x1 every three months for a catheter change.

Saving to the NHS in this single case are awesome. Do you know the majority of care for ill, older and disabled people is provided not by doctors, nurses or care workers but by family and friends. More people are caring for a loved one than ever before, with one in eight people providing unpaid care to loved ones. From taking a partner with an illness to hospital appointments, to helping a disabled sibling with washing and dressing, to caring full time for an elderly parent, we are, increasingly, a nation of carers.

New Carers UK figures show that this help is worth £132bn per year – more than double its value in 2001.  This figure is calculated by adding up all of the care provided by carers and working out the cost of the state providing the same amount of support.  And this unprecedented figure of £132bn – more than the value of HSBC Holdings, or Visa plc – does not appear to reflect nursing costs.

The outpouring of caring is indeed something to be proud of, but I’m equally appalled that such a huge burden is placed on so many without any professional, paid carers on the scene. For some, that will be a choice. For the majority, I fear, it’s because the bar is now too high for them to warrant a funded care package.

The figure is confetti money – the cost of a second NHS service. So, what is driving the increase in the value of care? Demographic change now means means that the numbers of those in need of care and support is beginning to exceed the numbers of working age family members able to provide it.  But more critically is the fact that cuts to social security and local care services means people are receiving less support. It’s ticking time bomb, I fear, for surely this amount of ‘unofficial’ caring cannot be sustained indefinitely without some major support.

One wonders how long it will be before the carers crumble and their charges are, by default, neglected. I know of family carers who are struggling to make ends meet financially. Ordinary people, fighting to balance their domestic books, they are desperate for social services’ funding, but the pool of money to fund such intervention has evaporated.

Government has broken too many promises on the care issue to mention, but I will bring your attention to the hypocrisy of David Cameron. Did you know he protested about frontline cuts to public services suggested by his own Conservative local council?

A leaked letter shows Cameron chastised Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, for considering cuts to elderly day centres and other services. ‘Not in my back yard,’ springs to mind.

A whopping £132bn . . . the yield for zero investment. It surely doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envisage more savings longterm if monies could be poured in to social care to fund a more professional approach. Goodness knows, those heroic and stoic people who care for their loved-ones out of a seemingly endless pool of compassion and love deserve it!

Crisis talks on future of care homes

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Yesterday’s BBC news tells us that crisis talks were taking place between care home owners and council leaders “amid mounting concern a large number of providers are preparing to pull out of the market.”

I am not surprised.

Latest figures reveal 37,000 beds – nearly 10 per cent – could be lost by 2020.

Why? Inadequate fees paid by councils and the additional costs of meeting the national living wage.

The Beeb informs that charities will also be represented at the meeting in London “with all sides calling for extra funding ahead of next week’s spending review.”

Pressure on the Chancellor really is mounting . . . Good, I say.

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, is reported as saying: “Faced with increasing costs and falling fee levels, many smaller care providers will go to the wall, jeopardising the care of thousands of vulnerable people.”

On the agenda was contingency planning for mass home closures and the collapse of many small providers.

Age UK and Carers UK were represented alongside some of the big care companies and council chiefs.

And here’s a nugget: There are more than 400,000 elderly care home residents in England with more than half council-funded in part.

In the West Midlands the picture is worse with somewhere near 80 per cent of homes reliant on council-funded occupancy. And of course, at West Midlands Care Association we too are lobbying and presenting data to support better funding. Martin Green is doing a good job here, but be assured he’s not the only one in the fight.

Currently WMCA is in talks with all our local authorities and members are being encouraged to respond to council surveys on the specific costs of care. We have a duty to be public on this and ‘tell it as it is’. Not responding, sadly, serves only to strengthen the argument for not hiking up fees.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said future spending on care would be decided by the spending review and assured “no-one will be left without care if a home close.”

Cold comfort, indeed, don’t you think?