The wrong focus? Addressing the elephant in the room

According to research from Age UK, nearly 1,000 elderly individuals are being needlessly admitted to ospital every day. These figures relate to conditions such as ear, nose or throat conditions, kidney, and urinary tract infections, alongside angina. All of these conditions could have been avoided if the individual was in receipt of better care.

Now that is not to say that the care people receive is insufficient. That is not what is being suggested. What is being suggested here is that with the cuts to Social Care many people have been forced down alternative routes to care for their loved ones. The care that they are in receipt of us is then not sufficient and can sometimes only covers the basics.

Home care from friends and family will rarely cover beyond basic medical understanding and can lead to a rise in hospital admissions. Without the appropriate level of care being provided, illnesses and ailments can be misdiagnosed and the hospital becomes the safety valve. Whenever an illness raises its head, an individual is transferred to the hospital and is then held there through delays in finding ongoing care.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, recently commented: "The safety net for older people living at home has worn dangerously thin after years of underfunding and an absence of workforce planning across both health and care – this is why the numbers of older people whose emergency admissions to hospital could have been avoided are rising so fast."

There is a definite disparity between what is provided and what is needed.

The increase in those caring for their loved ones at home

Consistent cuts to Social Care and the individual budgets for local authorities has seen the number of local authorities in crisis grow. Many have been forced to strip services down to the bare minimum, which has resulted in an increase in the number of carers. Cuts have required authorities to focus on acute needs rather than prevention. Recent increases in spending on Health have been well received by the public and makes for positive headlines. Whilst this is positive; you need to look at the other side of the coin, Social Care. Should Social Care be the forgotten sibling left to the side?

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association's community wellbeing board, commented on this situation recently and said: "With people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, the system is at breaking point and is ramping up pressures on unpaid carers who are the backbone of the care system."

Current figures point to the number of unpaid carers in the UK at seven million, with this figure set to reach 11.2 million by the time we reach 2030. Caring for loved ones is not restricted to those under retirement age. There has also been an increase in the number of older carers, with one in five people over the age of 50 being responsible for caring for a loved one. 65% of these carers, those between the ages of 60 and 94 have long-term health problems themselves. They need treatments and operations, but often cancel these last minute to care for their loved ones. These cancelled operations also costing the NHS money and add to the overall problem. Rather than one who is in need of care and assistance, the system now has two people to care for.

Delayed Transfers of Care

Care not being in place was the main reason there were delays for older people leaving hospital in England last year, according to figures released by the NHS.

Without the appropriate support at home, elderly individuals can be caught up in the process. They can be needlessly admitted to hospital and then kept in the hospital, as there has been no ongoing care provided. They cannot return home without additional care or sometimes they cannot return home due to progression in their illness.

There can be a myriad of reasons but with the system ready to buckle, more long-term care support needs to be provided. The system is broken and needs to be rebuilt on both sides of the coin.

"Health and social care are two sides of the same coin and reforms must be aligned - that’s why our forthcoming Green Paper will be published in the autumn alongside the NHS plan."
Department of Health and Social Care Spokesman

Health and Social Care are intrinsically linked

One thing is true, we need to realise that in the UK there is an intrinsic link between Health and Social Care. One cannot flourish without the other. By solely investing in the NHS, you are leaving a huge gap in the system that someone needs to fill. Social Care and Health are two sides of the same coin and rely on each other for stability.

You cannot hope to re-build the foundations of the NHS to create an effective, long-term funding model, without first addressing the gaps in Social Care. Without funding, Social Care will rely more and more on the NHS to care for people in the short term whilst they look for long-term solutions.

The system needs to change and we are all looking to the Green Paper to provide this.