What we need is better coordination between the NHS and care service providers as well as more funding
We're often hearing stories that the healthcare sector is reaching breaking point but the latest statistic that there will be a £4 billion shortfall by 2020 is not another cry wolf tactic. In fact, it is so concerning that many leading health care organisations are now calling for council funded care to be protected in a similar way to the NHS. Many are also concerned it is putting the dignity, health and wellbeing of the elderly, disabled and vulnerable in danger of receiving substandard treatment.
One of the main causes for the decline in care of the elderly is the lack of funding and investment in the sector. However, some initiatives are being rolled out to try and incentivise the NHS and local governments to work closely together and provide a cohesive care service. Announced in 2013, the Better Care Fund is focused around a budget of £3.8 billion and aims to improve relationships between government services to improve care services. Whilst initiatives such as the Better Care Fund are a step in the right direction for the care industry further support is needed to provide the elderly with the necessary support systems.
The Local Government Association prediction that there will be a £4 billion shortfall by 2020, does not include the introduction of the National Living Wage. The National Living Wage aims to bring the hourly rate up to £9 per hour by 2020, however the funding for this is yet to be confirmed. It can be argued that the introduction of the National Living Wage will hopeful draw more care workers to the industry and boost morale, yet it may lead to further financial strain on already stretch budgets.
Care throughout the UK varies depending on where service users live. For example, in England, those aged over 65 may receive help towards their costs. Yet many often pay for services regardless of if they receive treatment in their own home, a care home or a nursing home. Often, care is controlled and tightly rationed by councils with local authorities only required to provide care for those in the most danger.
Nicola Mewse, Managing Director at Hales Care, said:
"everyone is likely to be connected to the Homecare industry in some way, either now or in the future – whether seeking care, needing care themselves, working in the industry or knowing someone in the sector. The UK Homecare system is in danger of collapse. It's estimated there are currently 1.6m adults with unmet care needs in the UK despite the work of some 500,000 care workers who are dedicated to supporting the vulnerable and elderly of our communities."
Care of elderly and vulnerable is reliant upon the skilled and dedicated care workers who work to provide bespoke service and treatment for each patient they attend to. For many familiarity of care is essential, in particular for elderly patients who may have mental health issues or specific health requirements. Highly trained care workers are relied upon to provide the services its users require and without the correct funding the industry is at risk of failing its patients.
The increased pressure on the care industry is also due to the increase in average life expectancy, with females and males expected to live until 81 and 79 years old respectively, according to the Office for National Statistics. With many now living longer, ailments often come later on in life and care is required for a longer duration. Added winter pressures such as flu outbreaks are also increasing the demand on the care sector.
In order to protect the elderly in care and increase the standard of care provided in the industry a series of changes needs to be put in place to boost the sector. The National Institute for Care and Health Excellence has recommended that better coordination is needed between the NHS and care service providers and an increase in funding is required in order to stop the care industry from collapsing.