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By Debbie le Quesne

Memories of year where care reached crisis point

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Taking a look back is always dangerous. Nostalgia of ‘better days’ and being transfixed with what has been is never good for moving on efficiently.

But we really can’t escape the fact the 2016 put up some of the bleakest headlines for care that I’ve ever seen.

Funding gaps in community services for older people, which could increase to £2.6bn by 2020; delays in discharging medically fit patients from hospital; regular breaches of safe hospital bed occupancy levels;  and the government and the health and care sectors misaligned (what ever happened to the single budget for NHS and social care?).

It should have been the year that social care and healthcare finally start working together effectively . . . but we’re still waiting. There are, however, some green shoots of promise where the integration model has been pioneered.

As for funding for the future – the 6 per cent council tax rise announced in December is a start, but it diverts funds from housing and will leave some taxpayers  out of pocket.

More significantly it will do little to solve the ageing population problem and overstretched care system.

Currently there’s a lot of behind the scenes talk of more joined-up care between the NHS and social and it’s this hope that keeps me motivated. Indeed, 2017 could be a year of promise (but only if you catch me on a good day).

Obviously, by melding the two streams of care – something that had never happened since the NHS was founded in 1948 – care can become the seamless experience our elderly population deserves.

Despite the protests over who is taking what out of combined budgets, there are already promising signs – local authorities should look to Greater Manchester which, in April 2016, became the first locality in England to merge its health and social care sectors and control its budgets.

In the west Midlands there have been snippets of joint funding news, but not always good as I hear of health always having the upper hand and snatching monies back into its pot.

Without change, social care as we know it will inevitably die and so will those for whom it cares. Reinventing budget mechanics can be achieved, I believe, and bring harmony between social and NHS care. Bring it on – the sooner the better.

 

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