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By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for the ‘community care’ Category

Robots with a human touch . . . will it ever catch on?

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You know the care sector’s in trouble when the media is awash with robot stories.

Apparently they are part of the answer to the care crisis. I’m not convinced, given the time frame in which we need a resolve.

But they are being developed “with cultural awareness” and a good bedside manner, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

They will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship. I get that.

Researchers from Middlesex University and the University of Bedfordshire will assist in building personal social robots, known as Pepper Robots, which can be pre-programmed to suit the person they are helping.

These “culturally sensitive” robots will be developed within three years, I read.

Prof Irena Papadopoulos, expert in trans-cultural nursing, was reported as saying: “As people live longer, health systems are put under increasing pressure.

“In the UK alone, 15,000 people are over 100 years of age and this figure will only increase.

“Assistive, intelligent robots for older people could relieve pressures in hospitals and care homes as well as improving care delivery at home and promoting independent living for the elderly.

“It is not a question of replacing human support but enhancing and complementing existing care.”

Here’s the rub . . . not designed to replace human support.

I don’t doubt they could be of use, but no matter how well they are programmed to be culturally aware, they will never replace the bond that can exist between carers and those for whom they care.

Pepper Robots are already used in thousands of homes in Japan.

So here’s the future: The robots will communicate through speech and with gestures, be able to move independently and pick up signs the elderly person is unwell or in pain.

Can’t really see my old Aunt Hilda asking her robot for a not-too-milky tea, with the tiniest amount of sugar, served in her favourite porcelain tea cup, can you?

 

 

Higher local taxes not a proper answer

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While Surrey County Council leader David Hodge bleated an apology over his attempt at hiking up council tax bills by 15 per cent to cover spiralling social care costs, more than 90 per cent of councils in England told ITV News that being allowed to raise council tax has made little or no difference to their ability to provide social care.

In December the government announced it planned to increase the social care precept from two to three percent.

But with the crisis surrounding home care deepening, many councils told ITN its no more than a “sticking plaster”.

Interesting, isn’t it, that the Surrye ‘sticking plaster’ has just dropped off the ‘wound’ with the announcement earlier this month that the huge hike had been scrapped.

A survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), commissioned by ITV News, contacted all 152 councils in England.

They were asked whether permission to increase council tax would make a positive impact on social care in their area. Just 112 responded.

Thirty said it would make no difference and 79 agreed it would make very little difference. Just three councils agreed the rise would make a substantial difference to their ability to look after residents needing extra help to cope.

Not a single local authority believed the tax initiative at a local level offered a complete solution.

Last year the Local Government Association claimed Treasury funding cuts of 40 per cent over the last five years have left councils facing a £5 billion funding gap on social care.

Mrs May, will you please listen to what is going on in our sector and help us?

Interestingly, I was in Surrey at an association members’ meeting when the 15 per cent shocker was announced and the care providers with me were as puzzled as everyone else by the move, given that the majority of their clients are self-funders.

 

 

 

CQC: More companies are pulling out of contracts with councils

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Private sector care providers are ditching home care services, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) says.

And the regulator adds companies are pulling out of contracts with councils as they are no longer ‘profitable.’ A national trend, it’s now happening across the West Midlands, but the real crunch will come in April when we see the next increment in the National Living Wage.

According to the Commission the crisis in social care funding means authorities can only afford to pay firms very low rates.

How long has West Midlands Care Association been warning this will happen? Err, years.

David Behan, chief executive of the CQC, was reported in the media as saying several major companies, including Care UK, had pulled out of local home care contracts.

Giving evidence to MPs at the Health Select Committee, he said firms were unable to ‘deliver the quality of care and the volumes of care at the price being offered’.

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services figures show that 57 per cent of councils have reported home care businesses giving up their contracts in the past six months.

The research estimates that this had involved 10,800 elderly and vulnerable residents.

Some 400,000 people in the UK receive council-funded home care.

Quote: “Mr Behan told MPs that companies were ‘leaving the market’ and replacements were ‘not coming in.’ The vast majority of contracts handed back in our experience have been domiciliary care contracts where providers are saying:

‘We can’t deliver the quality of care and the volumes of care at the price being offered.’

The news has drawn comment from Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, who says ‘It’s worrying to hear that some care providers are giving up trying to make existing contracts work as their costs rise but funding fails to keep pace, and if these organisations are losing confidence in the sustainability of the care sector how on earth are older people and their families supposed to put their trust in it?’

Significantly she adds: ‘No care provider would ever walk away unless they felt they had no choice and the fact some are now doing so says a lot about the parlous state of the market at present.’

Very true. Austerity measures have had a catastrophic effect on care and ultimately the economies of council-funded packages don’t stack up with the inevitable failure to release bed-blocking at hospitals.

Estimates suggest that the number of those aged 85 and over will have almost doubled by 2030.

 

King’s Fund: Another year of challenges

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Looking to be inspired for 2017 and needing that shot in the arm to pep you up for the months ahead? Take heart (or a pill) – here’s the news from the much respected Kings Fund: “2017 promises to be another challenging year for the health and care system, with demand for care increasing faster than the supply of resources.”

The January bulletin adds: “A system already stretched to its limits will have to work even harder to maintain current standards of care and to balance budgets.

“This requires a continuing focus on operational performance and renewed efforts to transform the delivery of care at a time when frontline staff are working under intense pressure.”

I’m already wilting, even though I know it’s true.

The Fund points out that the NHS five year forward view (Forward View) will be “tested to its limits as leaders work to improve performance and transform care.” And it adds: “The NHS locally has to deliver £15 billion of the £22 billion efficiency improvements required under the Forward View, with the remaining £7 billion to be delivered nationally. It also has to provide evidence that new care models are delivering benefits. Failure to do so will raise serious questions about the assumptions on which the Forward View was based and on the ability of leaders to deliver their plans.”

The popular think tank highlights five main priorities for 2017.

Here we go and I’m summarising . . .

 

Supporting new care models centred on the needs of patients

 

  • People should be much more involved in their own health and care and be offered the information and support to manage their medical conditions
  • More care should be delivered in people’s homes or closer to home
  • Much greater priority should be given to public health and prevention through partnerships between local government, the NHS and other organisations
  • Action by government is also needed to reverse the rising tide of obesity and other major risk factors.
  • Building on the Forward View – programmes of integrated care that are sustainable.

 

Strengthening and implementing sustainability and transformation plans

 

  • Sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) are a practical expression of care that offer the best opportunity for the NHS and its partners to work together to transform the delivery of care, but there’s a need to strengthen leadership as they move from planning to implementation.

 

Improving productivity and delivering better value

 

  • As an organisation with an annual budget of more than £100 billion, the NHS has plenty of scope to be more productive. Increasing productivity has become more urgent as funding increases have fallen and deficits among NHS providers have risen. Key issues include better value, involving patients more in decision-making and reducing unwarranted variations in care and to improve care

 

Developing and strengthening leadership at all levels

 

  • Improving care depends in large part on the quality of leadership throughout the NHS and the ability of leaders to engage and support staff to improve care. There is a need for compassionate and inclusive styles of leadership
  • The success of STPs and the new care models hinges on experienced organisational leaders developing into system leaders, who are able to work across boundaries to negotiate and implement improvements in care. There is a need for leaders ‘comfortable with chaos’ to make things happen

 

 

Securing adequate funding for health and social care

 

  • In April the NHS will enter the eighth year of unprecedented constraints on funding while adult social care is rapidly becoming little more than a threadbare safety net for the poorest and most needy older and disabled people. The prospects for the remainder of this parliament remain bleak, with limited scope for raising more funds for social care and the NHS having to plan for infinitesimal growth in 2018/19 and 2019/20.
  • The government must choose between finding additional resources for health and care or being honest with the public about the consequences of continuing austerity for patients and users of publicly funded social care. Finding additional resources means being willing either to increase taxation or to reallocate funds from other areas of spending. Being honest about the consequences of continuing austerity requires acknowledgement that current performance standards and new commitments like seven-day working cannot be delivered within available funding.
  • The more important challenge is to initiate a debate about a new settlement for health and social care, building on the work of the Barker Commission.

 

I genuinely wanted some rays of sunshine in this bleak report, but the skies are still dark. Here’s hoping things will get better and we’ll see more integrated approaches between the NHS and social care. . . it surely must be the way forward.

 

 

The state we’re in – time for a reality check

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Britain’s elderly population is soaring, but there’s a big problem: Not all the latter years afforded by better care and medicinal advances are healthy.

There are one million more people over the age of 65 than five years ago, and the number of those aged 80 and over has risen by almost 10 per cent.

The demographic shift means an increasing number of extremely frail and elderly people who are unable to carry out daily tasks unaided.

And social care is in demand like never before.

In 2010, the Coalition government promised to protect the NHS from cuts and the

Conservative administration has continued to ensure that the health service receives increases in funding, with an extra £8bn a year by 2020, I read.

Despite the NHS ‘protection’ policy, just like its poor relative, social care is also in trouble.

With social care funding at an all-time low, care businesses failing weekly, reduced capacity in the private sector and a growing unwillingness among care provider survivors to take council-funded candidates, bed-blocking is now seizing the mechanics of good hospital caring.

Simply, medically fit people are being left on wards because there are no community beds available, or the necessary support care packages at home cannot be established.

Austerity measures have hit councils badly and social care has been an easy target on which to save money. It sounds harsh, but it’s the way it is.

In real terms, figures suggest budgets for social services have fallen by 11 per cent in five years, as the elderly population has surged.

We have been warning of the winter crisis for months and now we find operations are being cancelled in a bid to ease the hospital beds shortage.

I understand that ahead of Christmas there was a clamour to free up hospital beds.

But returning pensioners to their homes requires far more care to be available; from home-helps, to full-time live-in personal assistants and carers with advanced skills.

What’s more, since 2009, the number of people receiving state-funded help for care has fallen by 25 per cent. So many are struggling to pay-as-you go as self-funders.

And there’s another issue. “Social care sector roles now have turnover rates of more than 25 per cent a year, with more than 300,000 workers walking away from such work every year. It is an ageing workforce too – one in five of those in the field are approaching retirement age,” a national press report said.

Remarkably, so many of my West Midlands Care Association members and those with whom I work in other care organisations, stoically press on providing excellent standards of caring.

Yes, we do need a new architecture for care finances, but proposals are so far short-term and a realistic solution is notably missing from any political New Year goodwill message that I’ve seen.

 

 

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