Extra Social Care Funding: The sector needs a cure, not a flu jab

Earlier this week the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, announced that social care would be receiving an emergency funding injection. This boost would be worth £240 million and designed to stave off another winter crisis.

We all remember last winter when operations were cancelled and the number of patients ‘stuck’ in their beds began to skyrocket. It is what no-one wants to comprehend, that the NHS and social care are in crisis. We hear all the time about funding cuts and emergency cash injections but does this money make a difference?

In the Short Term – Yes

The money will act as a preventative measure to keep people inside their homes and out of hospitals. This money will be allocated to housing adaptions and care packages.

These packages sound simple but can make the world of difference. The simple addition of support rails to get in and out of the bath or adding a stair lift up to the second floor can keep people at home. When the papers call people ‘Bed Blockers’ they make them less than human. They don’t want to be laying in the hospital bed away from their loved ones, in a queue in the corridor loosing muscle strength each day. No. They want to be at home where they belong. This extra allocation of funding could provide:

  • 71,500 domestic care packages

  • 86,500 reablement packages (Everyday tasks will be supported by support workers to regain mobility and confidence)

  • Or 27,000 home adaptions

However the funding is allocated and we assume that it will be a mixture of all three, it will make a difference. On the flip side of this, it will make a difference to only those selected and we doubt it will be able to have an impact on everyone in the country. Being that there are an estimated 850,000 people in the UK living with Dementia alone, the money will not reach everyone.

More than likely the £240 million has been chosen as the amount, as that is the calculated amount that will result in a reduction of figures from last year. It will be a short term political gain rather than a long term change in approach that is needed for health and social care. It will cover the basic needs but is not the long term change that we all desire.

Yes. It will make a difference to the lives of thousands of people and that should be applauded. It should not be taken as a substitute for the Green Paper and the long term change in funding and operation that is needed. Matt Hancock at his recent speech in Birmingham told the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham,

We will use this money to get people who don’t need to be in hospital, but do need care, back home, back into their communities, so we can free up those vital hospital beds…

“And help people who really need it get the hospital care they need.”

The extra funding will do exactly as Mr. Hancock says and get people back home. It will help thousands, but it won’t help the millions that need help.

In the Long Term – No

For too long health and social care services have been disparate with the NHS receiving the majority of the funding. Billions have been promised to the NHS whilst social care is left with millions for a few months. The NHS has a long term plan, social care has a sticking plaster to hold until the New Year.

As we have said many times, the NHS and social care need a joint plan. They are intrinsically linked and by tying them effectively together you ensure that patients are not kept longer than needed. They have a plan after they leave that is followed through by social care. Whether that is through help at home or care in a home. It’s about time we changed the perception of social care.

The Perception of Social Care

Care homes are regularly thought of with fear and loathing.

Stories of residents being locked in their rooms, staff not bothering to feed them and a general lack of care being provided top most lists. To top this some homes charge fees higher than Roman Abramovich’s meal tab. You pay over the top rates for care that is sometimes amazing, sometimes average and sometimes poor. Inconsistency should not exist in care. You cannot have a Doctor who is employed with this track record, so why is it accepted in social care?

The perception is that social care is of less importance than health. This could not be further from the truth. Both are needed in order to effectively care for society. The truth is that with this perception comes the view that working in social care is working as a low skilled labourer. This, in turn, brings about staff shortages that lead to residents being allocated a few minutes a day as the home is understaffed.

With estimates placing end of life care for those suffering with Alzheimer’s at nearly £100,000, you can see where the disconnect lies. You want to ensure that your loved one is cared for in the best manner possible with round the clock care but the homes don’t have the staff.

There are currently an estimated 90,000 staff vacancies across the UK for social care and this is before Brexit hits. Caring is seen as unskilled labour and this need to change. It needs to be seen as a worthwhile career, be linked with health and underpinned with an effective funding strategy.

Conclusion

Health and social care services in the UK should be held up high and praised. The press should focus on the positives rather than just on the negatives. There are thousands of dedicated staff members that tirelessly turn up very day and make a difference. They often work more than 12 hour shifts and rarely complain. They have chosen this career path to help people and money will make little difference to them.

These individuals should be heralded but for every one of them, there are those that provide an indifferent service. They are the ones that see the social care not as a career but as an unskilled labour suitable for temporary work. Without the change in perception, the crisis will grow and Brexit will push this forward even more as more homes will be forced to close due to understaffing.