Tag Archives: home care

Paul Burstow MP writes…We need urgent action on home care

Care in the home Some rights reserved by British Red CrossThe extra £2 billion for health care services announced in the Autumn Statement last week is fantastic news. It is testament to Norman Lamb’s effective and high profile campaigning for urgent funding for the NHS, as well as the hard work behind the scenes by many colleagues making the case.

But in reality these additional funds will not be enough to put the NHS on a sustainable footing. As many of us know only too well, social care is in crisis, and with an ageing population, the existing strain can only become greater. If we don’t address this issue urgently, we risk creating a wholly avoidable additional burden on the NHS which would put its stability entirely out of reach.

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Opinion: The Great Home Care Scandal

I prefer not to think about how I would die. I like the idea of dying peacefully in my sleep, not knowing what had happened, and ideally at a time when I have no great plans left for the future. I don’t suppose the percentage of > people who die like that is particularly high.

I have made a decision not to have children, but I wonder if I will regret it from a purely self-interested point of view when I am old. For it is perhaps more likely my death will follow a pattern familier to many; increasing illness, disability and reliance on others. And who will be these “others”? Those employed by the home care system, which was starkly exposed by the recent BBC Panarama programme.

It was shocking. It was an absolute disgrace. Care workers who were poorly trained, barely earning more
than the minimum wage, given little or no information on the people they were seeing, constantly on the phone about the next appointment whilst attempting to care for their current appointment, and only given a fraction of the time they were supposed to have with that person. People got injured, their quality of life was appalling and their deaths were hastened.

It was no surprise to me, but it was shocking to see. The suffering was terrible. It reminded me of Kinnock’s warning about voting in a Tory goverment: Make sure you don’t get ill. Only this is during a Labour Government, of course. How did it come to this?

One word stands out; privatisation.

Central government is putting pressure on local government to keep down costs. And whilst it costs local authorities £22 per hour to treat someone, the private sector puts in bids for £12 per hour on average. On Panarama we saw one case of companies bidding against each other, and going down to £9.95. In some places, whoever puts in the lowest tender won the contract. That is the main criteria.

Economic Liberals would argue that such low costs are acheived through greater efficiency. Panarama revealed the truth. Care was cheap because it was substandard. The regulators were interviewed and were tight lipped. For whatever reason, they were clearly not doing their job.

Maybe the philosophy of “light touch regulation” is not just the curse of the City, but a fundamental flaw in all government policy? The moneymen were also interviewed. I was rather shocked to see Justin Urqhart-Stewart for the first time. Normally I hear his voice on the BBC Today Programme discussing what is happening in the City. I wonder if he feels he was set up by the BBC on this one. He was saying what a great investment opportunity Elderly Home Care is. Logically he was right, given our aging population. Clearly he hadn’t factored in the human dimension and the potential for public uproar when we find out what is going on. Maybe he had and figured there is still lots of money to be made regardless.

It is amazing in one sense. It is the elderly who are more likely to vote, and are more likely to be a member of a political party. They ought to have more influence than they currently do.

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