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By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for November 2016

Autumn Statement: My utter disbelief

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Like millions of others, I listened to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in a stunned disbelief that after unprecedented pressure he failed to deliver on social care.

Secretly, I’d been hopeful that, as ITV put it, this vital area of funding would be Philip Hammond’s “rabbit out of the hat.”

But the man, who is privileged to represent the constituents of one of the wealthiest areas in the UK, said absolutely nothing on the issue so many of us were pinning our hopes on.

As the Prime Minister pointed out in PMQ’s, local authorities have been allowed to raise council tax by 2% to help plug the funding gap. But, especially in poorer areas where council tax receipts are low, the “social care precept” has barely touched the sides.

The irony of it all I find was in the closing comment calling it a plan that “provides help to those who need it now.”

On what plant does this Chancellor live?

It was no surprise that leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn chose to focus on health and social care as he took on the Prime Minister in the Commons before the Autumn Statement.

But is set a stage of clear demarcation – between reality and Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Love him or hate him, Corbyn urged the Government to plug the gap and address the “stress and fear” it causes.

Unremittingly bleak, social care providers have done an amazing job in recent years without the central funding to sustain long-term credible business models.

Local authorities have also been forced to pare provision back, to in the opinion of many, dangerous levels.

For six years there have been unprecedented cuts to LA budgets, with figures suggesting those people eligible for council-funded care falling by 25 per cent.

Teresa May’s almost apologetic herald for the mini-budget of gloom was found in her comment: “We can only afford to pay for the NHS and social care if we have a strong economy”.

My life! This is another George Osborne in this key role.

Well, Mr Hammond, may I congratulate you on your sheer brilliance in ignoring perhaps the most pressing social dilemma since the introduction of the Three-day Week in 1974.

Predictions of “looming chaos” were rejected by the Chancellor.

Philip Hammond said a previously announced NHS funding commitment was in line with what its leaders had wanted.

Health and social care leaders are reeling and unanimous in their condemnation.

Now the Treasury has made its stand, with Mr Hammond confirming that ministers would be sticking with departmental spending announced last year, the official unraveling of social care can begin.

In a new briefing published ahead of the Autumn Statement on 23 November, the Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust analysed the state of health and social care finances, concluding that cuts and rising demand will leave adult social care facing a £1.9 billion funding gap next year.

What a cynical approach to well-founded information in the care sector we have witnessed. Is this bordering on criminal neglect . . . interesting thought.

And finally (for now): For once I am in a position to sympathise with the local authorities in the West Midlands and particularly Birmingham which is £50million in the red already this year.

No lifeline, the extra burden of the living wage  . .  and effectively an abandonment of responsibility for those in need and their care providers. In the industrial West Midlands  there simply are not enough self-funders to keep the sector afloat and bolster the care of those people funded by their local councils.

A budget for the JAM people (just about managing), Mr Hammond. Not in my world, Sir.

 

 

 

 

– Debbie LeQuesne CEO

At last, the embattled social care sector is making the headlines it needs

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Billions of pounds are needed to avoid the NHS and social care crisis – that’s the message which has been sent to Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.

According to the Daily Mirror, leaders in the care sector have alerted Mr Hunt after three health areas revealed they face a combined shortfall of more than £2.4billion by the end of the decade

As we broke into November, the dire warning outlined that without extra money they will struggle to meet waiting time targets, provide enough hospital beds and basic levels of social care.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, and it’s right on our doorstep.

The Mirror reports: “The verdict is contained in the newly published Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for Birmingham and Solihull, North Central London and South West London.

Sustainability and Transformation Plans were ordered by NHS England boss Simon Stephens in December 2015 and charged 44 regions in England to come up with a five-year programme for providing health and social care in their areas.

I’m not a lover of red-top journalism, but this report is exactly what’s needed.

And it adds: “Of the three reports published so far Birmingham and Solihull warns it faces a £712million shortfall by 2020, South West London £828million and North Central London £876million.”

For the record, West Midlands Care Association is working very closely with Birmingham City Council and assessing the impact throughout the neighbouring Black Country region.

The shortfall will doubtless impact on areas already struggling like Sandwell, Walsall and Dudley.

Mark Rogers, the chief executive of Birmingham Council, says in the piece both health and social care face “huge challenges”. According to Mirror “this includes the need for at least 430 more hospital beds in the region.”

Personally, I’m struggling to find a creative way forward. All the cuts in social care have already been made and I fear the duty of care caveat is lost somewhere in the ether.

Budgets are not just shrinking, they are vanishing and the demand for care is astronomic.

Mr Hunt, I fear lives in a bubble as MP for South West Surrey, and as we all know the social care financial map is very different in his constituency.

There is a laudable push to get people out of hospital and back into their own homes with social care support. But it is catastrophically failing.

Let me quote the Mirror again: The North Central London STP says it is not “able to deliver universally for everyone to the standards we would like.

“Our analysis tells us that too many people stay longer in hospital than is medically necessary. There are challenges with meeting acute standards, as well as issues workforce sustainability.

“Some of our estates aren’t fit for purpose. Additionally, we face a financial challenge of £876million across health commissioners and providers by 20/21 if we do nothing,” the STP is reported as saying.

This could have been written of any number of LAs throughout the UK.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has a chance to help next week with his mini Budget on November 23.

In the light of bleak analysis, I truly hope he will understand his responsibilities towards care providers and those receiving care.

WE are working with Birmingham to look at the consequences for Domicilairy and Care Homes. The shortfall in Birmingham has impact on the Black Country with many people being placed in Sandwell Walsall and Dudley

‘Billions’ needed to avoid social care meltdown

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Billions of pounds are needed to avoid the NHS and social care crisis – that’s the message which has been sent to Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.

According to the Daily Mirror, leaders in the care sector have alerted Mr Hunt after three health areas revealed they face a combined shortfall of more than £2.4billion by the end of the decade

As we broke into November, the dire warning outlined that without extra money they will struggle to meet waiting time targets, provide enough hospital beds and basic levels of social care.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, and it’s right on our doorstep.

The Mirror reports: “The verdict is contained in the newly published Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for Birmingham and Solihull, North Central London and South West London.

Sustainability and Transformation Plans were ordered by NHS England boss Simon Stephens in December 2015 and charged 44 regions in England to come up with a five-year programme for providing health and social care in their areas.

I’m not a lover of red-top journalism, but this report is exactly what’s needed.

And it adds: “Of the three reports published so far Birmingham and Solihull warns it faces a £712million shortfall by 2020, South West London £828million and North Central London £876million.”

For the record, West Midlands Care Association is working very closely with Birmingham City Council and assessing the impact throughout the neighbouring Black Country region.

The shortfall will doubtless impact on areas already struggling like Sandwell, Walsall and Dudley.

Mark Rogers, the chief executive of Birmingham Council, says in the piece both health and social care face “huge challenges”. According to Mirror “this includes the need for at least 430 more hospital beds in the region.”

Personally, I’m struggling to find a creative way forward. All the cuts in social care have already been made and I fear the duty of care caveat is lost somewhere in the ether.

Budgets are not just shrinking, they are vanishing and the demand for care is astronomic.

Mr Hunt, I fear lives in a bubble as MP for South West Surrey, and as we all know the social care financial map is very different in his constituency.

There is a laudable push to get people out of hospital and back into their own homes with social care support. But it is catastrophically failing.

Let me quote the Mirror again: The North Central London STP says it is not “able to deliver universally for everyone to the standards we would like.

“Our analysis tells us that too many people stay longer in hospital than is medically necessary. There are challenges with meeting acute standards, as well as issues workforce sustainability.

“Some of our estates aren’t fit for purpose. Additionally, we face a financial challenge of £876million across health commissioners and providers by 20/21 if we do nothing,” the STP is reported as saying.

This could have been written of any number of LAs throughout the UK.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has a chance to help next week with his mini Budget on November 23.

In the light of bleak analysis, I truly hope he will understand his responsibilities towards care providers and those receiving care.

WE are working with Birmingham to look at the consequences for Domicilairy and Care Homes. The shortfall in Birmingham has impact on the Black Country with many people being placed in Sandwell Walsall and Dudley

Dementia now the leading cause of death

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It’s a subject close to my heart, and after nursing both parents who suffered with dementia I’m not surprised to hear the memory-loss condition, including Alzheimer’s disease, has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales.

Last year, more than 61,000 people died of dementia – 11.6 per cent of all recorded deaths.

The Office for National Statistics says the change is largely due to an ageing population.

People are living for longer and deaths from some other causes, including heart disease, have gone down.

And of course, doctors are now much better at diagnosing dementia and the condition is now given more weight on death certificates.

The majority of beds now taken in our nursing homes are for those with some form of dementia, though this may not be the primary condition.

Hilary Evans of Alzheimer’s Research UK was reported in the Press as saying: “These figures once again call attention to the uncomfortable reality that currently, no-one survives a diagnosis of dementia.

“Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing, it’s caused by diseases that can be fought through research, and we must bring all our efforts to bear on what is now our greatest medical challenge.”

Martina Kane of the Alzheimer’s Society said: “It is essential that people have access to the right support and services to help them live well with dementia and that research into better care, treatments and eventually a cure remain high on the agenda.”

There are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK.

My question to those who hold the purse strings for social care: How are we expected to care for them correctly without more money coming our way?

Vanity projects have been the hallmark of many governments. The breaking of the miners’ union under Mrs Thatcher, the Millennium Dome, Heathrow’s new runway expansion, Trident and not least HS2, have all be cited as political legacy monuments.

But let’s get something clear here. The West Midlands Care Association is not, to use a term, “a political animal” and we’ll work with whatever party to enhance the delivery of social care. Truth is, however, every political persuasion has a desire to leave it’s mark, but perhaps now is a time to fix sights on a massive national problem – the state of social care.

The government currently says HS2 will cost £55.7 billion. In 2010 the original estimates were put at £32bn.

A foolish thought, I know, but shouldn’t we be shelving this scheme and diverting the money into resolving the care crisis that has gripped the nation?

That way, those locked into the distressing and surreal battle with dementia could be properly cared for. Have I got the social and economic values all so wrong? Clearly, things are never so simplistic, but at this time it appears a pretty good option to me.

We need to stop thinking about the expressions of dementia – it’s a condition that can be frightening to both carer and patient, it can be hard to be around it, it can be violent and it can destroy those who are simply under-gunned in the fight to deliver compassionate care.

Perhaps our MPs will note that all care needs to be respectful, but it costs and funding needs to come from somewhere. Also, perhaps they could take on board that the dementia drain on diminishing social care funds is for a people group which never chose to be such a burden on society.

The Association is acutely aware of the growing workload for dementia care and the social skills it needs.

Last month (October) – Dementia Month – we worked with all of our care providers and the Aged Care Channel TV (ACCTV) to get additional training to the carers.

Dementia: A cameo all policy makers should read

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A man who thought his wife no longer loved him has gone public about his experience after she was diagnosed with dementia, aged just 42.

Typically, it’s a Mail Online health story that gained some social media traction, but the case study of Linzi Thomas should be essential reading for all social care fund policy-makers.

A successful accountant and businesswoman, she was a loving and affectionate mum and wife.

But she began behaving strangely; refusing to wash or change her clothes and showing no interest in her family.

And it was only after her husband, Mike, pleaded for help that she was finally diagnosed with dementia.

Let me just offer some snippets from this story that made my eyes leak water.

Mike, 56, says: “When I met Linzi, I thought I’d found eternal love. We were soul mates.

“But she went from being a warm, attentive mum and wife to someone who didn’t wash or change her clothes or show me any love at all.

“We had once been so intimate and close yet all that stopped . . . I began to think she had fallen out of love with me or that she was having an affair.

“She went from being clinically clean and house-proud to existing in total squalor, surrounded by mouldy food and vomit. It was so distressing.

“In some ways, the diagnosis it was a huge relief. At last I knew what was wrong.”

Mike spent four years believing his wife no longer loved him and yet all of that time she was desperately ill.

The couple met 13 years ago and after their first date, on Valentine’s Day 2003, they were inseparable. They were married later that year, bought a smart family home, and started their own DIY business.

Mike says: “I fell head over heels for Linzi. She was an accountant, a deep thinker, and very cautious and thoughtful.

“She was a wonderful mum and home-maker and our home was spotless.

“We were so close – soul mates. We’d have fish and chips by the sea, or an evening playing Scrabble – simple things, but precious times.”

But six years ago, Linzi began acting strangely.

Mike says: “At first, it was very gradual. She had always been so attentive but she became withdrawn, she’d spend hours on the computer.

“She was almost like a teenager again, lost in her own world, and not making time for me and her daughter.

“When I was talking to her, she’d walk away, mid-conversation, as if she was bored by me.

“Every time I asked what was wrong, she would snap at me and tell me she was fine.

“I thought she had lost interest in me, that she didn’t love me. I began checking up to see if she was seeing someone else.”

Just reading this again fires me to do all I am able to help those wonderful care providers who make life so much better for people with this condition.

After seeking help from his GP, Mike was told Linzi needed to seek help herself.

The couple’s once-successful business went bankrupt and their house was repossessed.

Linzi, now 46, is currently in a care home and though she still recognises Mike, she has very little memory of their time together. She has a life expectancy of two to ten years.

Final quote: “My time with my wife is over, I can’t get that back, but it could be different for someone else and something needs to change.”

Indeed, things do need to change.

The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that there will be a million people with dementia in the UK by 2025. Can someone please tell me how will we care for them when the government agenda for social care appears to be so low priority?

Written by debbielq

November 21, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Pressure mounts on Chancellor for more cash

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Last month Theresa May’s claims that the government is putting £10bn extra into health was challenged by five MPs. led by the Conservative Dr Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the Commons health select committee.

The impact of not enough money for hospitals and access to social care are written for all to see in rising demand for A&E and missed waiting time targets.

Clearly there are complex reasons that, according to some sources, delayed transfer of care lost 192,000 hospital bed days. But the downgrading of social care in government agendas must be a primary cause.

I am led to understand some NHS number-crunchers believe the real number of people in hospital who should be being cared for in the community is probably four times as many as represented the figures here.

The pressure really is on Mr Hammond to deliver in his Autumn Statement.

Rising costs, the ageing population, difficulties recruiting staff and years of central government reducing its grant have left the service in crisis, the Local Government Association claims.

Surely, there is an unprecedented agreement that social care should be at the very top of the list of Mr Hammond’s priorities for urgent extra funding.

The triple whammy of shrinking budgets, rising demand and the cost of paying the national living wage to care workers has left many councils paring back more and more on care costs.

I’m led to believe that in Walsall last week there were 138 people waiting to leave hospital. There is enough capacity in the region to take them all, but . . . there is not the money to start the funding of new packages.

Before winter pressures kick in we understand discharge managers are looking to get all those people back in the community and free  100 beds for winter. Sadly, if all of those perceived admissions required care in the community or step-down residential beds we’re in trouble. There simply is not the capacity.

Mr Hammond is being urged by senior Tories to give the crumbling care system a double boost in his autumn statement, amid growing alarm that social care and the NHS will be unable to cope with demand this winter.

Rumours suggest that Mr Hammond is examining a plan to plough between £700m and £1.5bn extra into social care services from April to help reduce numbers of older people being admitted to hospital.

Apparently, he is also considering letting councils raise the amount they can add to council tax bills to fund social care through a precept introduced in April, currently capped at two percent.

We’ll see . . .

The LGA has made known that years of cuts to town-hall budgets have left the sector in crisis, with fewer people getting help with basics such as washing and eating at a time when need is rising.

Also, care homes are closing, partly because councils cannot afford high enough fees to allow operators – whose costs have risen because of the national living wage – to make a profit.

Putting further funds into social care, will I’m sure, indirectly relieve some of the difficulties being encountered by the NHS; not lest helping to facilitate a more efficient discharge of patients.

 

Branson wins £700m contract to run 200 care services

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There is no more burning injustice today than older and disabled people being denied the care they need to live with independence and dignity, but what is the way ahead for a cash-strapped system that is currently failing to meet needs?

Perhaps one of the answers lies in the hands of the billionaires. But will they repeat commercial history  just like the supermarket chains, which with huge buying powers, rode roughshod over the corner shop traders?

Currently, however, the national/local cost structures are very similar at the consumer end and what the big boys save on bulk buying goes on additional overheads.

I do read with interest though that Sir Richard Branson’s health firm, Virgin Care, has won a £700m contract to deliver 200 types of NHS and social care services to more than 200,000 people in Bath and north-east Somerset.

The contract has sparked new fears about private health firms expanding their role in the provision of publicly funded health services. Clearly I can understand the concerns regarding the NHS, but for the social care sector, could this be a lifeline?

Virgin Care has been handed the contract by both Bath and North East Somerset NHS clinical commissioning group. It is worth £70m a year for seven years and the contract includes an option to extend it by another three years.

It means that from 1 April Virgin Care will become the prime provider of a wide range of care for adults and children.

That will include everything from services for those with diabetes, dementia or who have suffered a stroke, as well as people with mental health conditions. It will also cover care of children with learning disabilities and frail, elderly people who are undergoing rehabilitation to enable them to go back to living at home safely after an operation.

Outsourcing, especially with the NHS, has a bad reputation and it appears the Virgin initiative is a big step towards the empire dominating the supply of community health across England.

The Mirror online newspaper reported that the Virgin deal includes dementia and end of life care and a “hospital from home” service for recently discharged patients.

Sir Richard has an impressive record of successful investments, so I’ll be monitoring this one with interest.

Certainly he is not short of the financial sleeve to bring a large fresh broom to social care provision, but if this is the future, I fear the conglomerate approach will inevitably destroy that indefinable ‘homeliness’ of some smaller residential care settings.