Dignity in care: we need the tools to deliver solutions

January 13, 2010 9:53 am

Author:

Share this Article

Social CareBy Diana Smith / @mulberrybush

We go through phases when the question of how we are going to care for an ageing population comes briefly to the top of the media’s attention for a couple days and then sinks without trace again.

This is a pattern I have been watching for about ten years now, and at times I find it a little frustrating. For the last couple of days I’ve been unable to escape it. It started with my reading some of the transcripts from the Midstaffs foundation trust Inquiry. I spent an afternoon this week at Stafford University, meeting with a symposium of health and care experts who are considering the implications of the equality bill for our Health and Care services. Then I watched Dispatches with Fiona Phillips talking about her father’s Alzheimer’s disease.

Then I listened to the BBC’s Thought for the Day, which dealt with how changing our attitudes to the elderly is central to the delivery of better care. Later, I listened to You and Yours, with dignity champion Sir Michael Parkinson. They didn’t use the audioboo I sent them so I’ve included it here.

Listen!

Tomorrow I will be seeing the chief executive at Stafford Hospital and I expect the quality of care and how we can continue to improve this to be a key issue in our discussion.

In discussions about the challenges that our health and care systems are presenting I find myself using a stock phrase “old age is not what it used to beâ€. If we look at what has been happening over the last couple of decades, the general improvements in health mean that people live far longer, and the highly dependent period of increasingly old and frail people at the end of life extends not just for a matter of just weeks or months, but in many cases years. Because I went through eight years of this with my mother’s dementia, I have a pretty clear idea of the impact this can have on families.

Like many people who have been through a difficult experience it matters to me to try and ensure that not too many other people have to go through the same problems.

There was a common theme running through all these programmes: that when we see problems with care we are very seldom looking at deliberate culpable cruelty or neglect. We are virtually always looking at a combination of overstretched and undervalued staff, who are working in surroundings that may not have been well designed for the purpose, and who are exhibiting the same kind of casual ageism that is present in virtually all of us. Sometimes this amounts to inappropriate behaviour, more often it is just a failure to relate to the person who is at the receiving end of the care as a person.

Ageing

The simple graphic above compares the shape of the population structure in 1950, 2000, and 2050. I think it shows pretty clearly why Health and Care systems designed in the 1940s are creaking under the strain now, and shows even more clearly why they will simply not cope by 2050.

Over the last couple of years we have perhaps been reaching the point where the problems of caring for the elderly have become a little more visible to a public who might have preferred not to see.

For me personally I find the continued media focus on the individual stories very frustrating. I know the problems. I also think that a lot of very important work has been done which moves us a lot closer to the possibility of real solutions. The green paper on care with the possibility of putting care funding on a realistic basis, and creating a National Care Service are to my mind some of the most important legislative proposals around. This is something that was built around lengthy and in depth consultation with stakeholder organisations. I have personally been taking part in these consultation exercises for five years now. The Green Paper was seen as a hugely positive step by the stakeholder groups, and I believe it would be welcomed by many ordinary people who are concerned about the possibility of losing their life savings on care, if they know of its existence at all. It is a proposal which can potentially win very strong cross party support, but it is something that only the Labour Party is proposing.

For me, the astonishing thing about the Dispatches programme and You and Yours is that they never mentioned the Green paper or the National Care Service.

The Dignity in Care campaign and the Equality Bill are both important in helping to create the climate for better care. The creation of a National Care Service is vitally important for providing a framework to deliver it.

If we want people to understand not merely the problems associated with elderly people in the health and care services, but also the solutions we are going to need, then I think we are going to have to work a lot harder to get this message across.



tweetmeme_source = 'tweetmeme';

Comments are closed

Latest

  • News Labour MP says party shouldn’t rule out a ‘grand coalition’ with the Tories

    Labour MP says party shouldn’t rule out a ‘grand coalition’ with the Tories

    Gisela Stuart, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, has said that Labour shouldn’t rule out forming a ‘grand coalition’ with the Tories after the next election if neither party win a majority. Stuart told the Financial Times (£): “If on May 8 you had a position where Labour had more seats than the Tories but not enough to form a government — but the Tories had more votes than Labour — I think you should not dismiss the possibility of a grand coalition […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Zero Discrimination Day: why LBGT rights matter worldwide

    Zero Discrimination Day: why LBGT rights matter worldwide

    When Ed Miliband appointed me his LGBTI global envoy he displayed once again his grasp of the wrongs that exist in the world and our need to be part of the resolution of these defining issue. His lead was followed this month when President Obama appointed Randy Berry as State Department LGBT envoy. And this is extremely important because when oppression and discrimination are on the increase that is precisely when we need to give our voice to the voiceless. […]

    Read more →
  • News One million more families will have to pay the Bedroom Tax if the Tories win in May, figures show

    One million more families will have to pay the Bedroom Tax if the Tories win in May, figures show

    One million more families will have to pay the Bedroom Tax if the Tories win the election in May, according to figures examined by the Labour party. These figures show that 220,000 more families would have to pay the tax each year of the five yearlong Tory government. As it stands, of those paying the tax – which on average amounts to £14 more a week in rent for an extra bedroom and £25 for two or more – one […]

    Read more →
  • News Polling Two-thirds are in favour of Labour’s tuition fee pledge, poll finds

    Two-thirds are in favour of Labour’s tuition fee pledge, poll finds

    YouGov polling on behalf of The Times Red Box, has found that two-thirds of people are in favour of Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year. As we reported on Friday, Labour announced they would cut tuition fees and increase the maintenance grant by £400. They would fund this by reducing tax reliefs given to the country’s wealthiest pensioners. This policy would come in to force for those entering universities in September 2016. YouGov have […]

    Read more →
  • Featured East Coast: Why privatisation is not the end of the line for rail reform

    East Coast: Why privatisation is not the end of the line for rail reform

    I am writing this article on board what the Conservative Party hopes is one of the last publicly run trains in Britain. On Sunday, East Coast will be privatised. The nation’s stake – its share in the East Coast Main Line company – will be sold to Stagecoach and Virgin Trains for a meagre £11 million. The East Coast livery will be quietly replaced by a new brand, as if the last five and a half years never occurred. Why […]

    Read more →
lablist-logo mark-ferguson maya conor coffee-cup
Everything Labour. Every Weekday Morning
×