Cuts to low-level care 'will cost billions in long term'


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The Government’s “dangerous” and “short-sighted” cuts to home-based care for the elderly is a “false economy” which has put lives at risk and cost the NHS billions of pounds, a new study claims.

Nearly nine in 10 GPs say elderly patients are being put at risk by a lack of lower-level social care support, according to a survey by the British Red Cross.

Up to £10,000 could be saved per patient in long-term costs if lower-level care was provided to keep the elderly in good enough health to remain in their own homes, the analysis found.

The findings come as campaigners issued their starkest warning yet to ministers that radical reform of the care system is needed as part of a white paper due to be published in the next few weeks.

Last week, the Care and Support Alliance – representing 65 leading care organisations – wrote to the three party leaders urging them to agree a solution after fears that cross-party talks had stalled.

The British Red Cross study highlighted fears that a lack of high-quality support for people in their own homes is leading

to increasing isolation among the elderly, more falls and accidents, and growing pressures on hospital beds and NHS funds.

Sir Nick Young, chief executive of the British Red Cross, which provides social care support for 230,000 people in the UK, said: “As politicians prepare to debate the future of social care it is vital they have the courage to think beyond the short-term and rethink the way care is delivered, prioritising vital, preventative care which supports people to live with dignity and confidence in their own homes.”

The research found 88 per cent of GPs believe their patients are being put at risk due to a lack of social care support.

Meanwhile, 85 per cent of GPs and |82 per cent of the public think support for people with lower needs is being cut due to a lack of funding.

The survey also found that 88 per cent of GPs and 80 per cent of the public believe a lack of investment or cuts to social care is driving down standards

Sir Nick added: “These attempts to save money are a false economy, because without lower-level support the chance that patients will rely on intensive and expensive hospital or residential support massively increases, adding to the financial crisis facing the social care sector.”

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said: “Care services are becoming increasingly rationed to those with only the highest needs, meaning more and more vulnerable, older people are unable to access the care and support they need to lead independent and dignified lives. Radical reform of the care system is the only way forward.”

Case Study: Jenny and James Tomlinson

When former librarian James Tomlinson went from normality to suffering dementia within a single week 18 months ago, doctors told his wife his only option was to go into a home.

Her refusal to accept this condemned her to a long and exhausting battle to provide the care her husband needs.

Retired nurse Jenny Tomlinson, 63, who estimates she spends 121 hours a week looking after her 73-year-old husband at their Bedford home, said she was left without any assistance from the NHS or other agencies to obtain – and fund – the support services that allow her to maintain a high quality of life for James.

She said: “After I told the doctors that I would not accept him being put in a home, it was left to me to put in place the package of care that James needs. We’re lucky, we have very supportive friends and I worked as a nurse. But it is completely exhausting and there are thousands out there who don’t know where to turn. The system as it stands does not work.”