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

  • Featured Gordon Brown to announce departure as an MP “within days”

    Gordon Brown to announce departure as an MP “within days”

    Former Labour leader and Prime Minister Gordon Brown is set to resign as MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath “within days” according to a report from the Sunday Mirror. Brown, who played a key role in the Scottish referendum campaign this year – giving a barnstorming speech on the eve of the vote that defined the case for the union. Brown’s rumoured departure follows his long-time ally Alistair Darling’s decision to quit Parliament in 2015. The Sunday Mirror reports: “Gordon Brown will […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Findlay says information going to party members for leadership vote is “insulting”

    Findlay says information going to party members for leadership vote is “insulting”

    Neil Findlay MSP, who is running to be leader of the Scottish Labour Party, is calling on the Labour Party to clarify what information will be given to members with Leadership ballot papers. At the moment it looks as though the booklet with candidate statements in it only lists the nominations each candidate received from Parliamentarians and not from Constituency Labour Parties, trade Unions or socialist societies. In response to this, Findlay has released the following statement: “Over the last […]

    Read more →
  • Comment It’s Ukip that offends working class sentiment

    It’s Ukip that offends working class sentiment

    After this week’s Twitter row at the Rochester by-election, I am using my keynote speech to the Labour East Regional Conference today to say that it is UKIP who truly offends working class sentiment and represents a party which is fundamentally un-British. Today I am lucky to serve as a Euro MP but, like many in our movement, I grew up on a council estate living in poverty, so don’t need any lectures from UKIP about snobbery. First, we can’t counter UKIP […]

    Read more →
  • News Balls says money raised from banking fines should go to the NHS

    Balls says money raised from banking fines should go to the NHS

    In a speech today at Labour’s East of England regional conference in Ipswich, Ed Balls has announced that £1bn raised from banks who are fined for manipulating the markers should go to the NHS. He is calling on George Osborne to include this in his Autumn Statement, due to take place on the 3rd December. This also comes after many health care professionals said due to funding cuts, “the NHS and our social care services are at breaking point.” Balls […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Scotland Join the 1,000 – building a movement for Labour’s future in Scotland

    Join the 1,000 – building a movement for Labour’s future in Scotland

    Last Tuesday I stopped by a Team Findlay phone bank in Glasgow. I was expecting to see a half dozen people making calls. There were close to 40. And that was just in Glasgow. More people were hitting the phones from Aberdeen to Ayrshire and from Dundee to Dumfries to take part in what we’re calling ‘Call 4 Change’. It’s been like this since my campaign kicked off two weeks ago. We launched ‘Neil 4 Scotland’ in the Miners’ Welfare in […]

    Read more →