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

  • Comment Local Government Bold and unique – a role for local government in our modern state

    Bold and unique – a role for local government in our modern state

    As we talk about our country’s constitution in the coming months, the starting point is what powers the Scottish Parliament should have. And whilst devolution for other nations and regions is also a central part of the wider debate, it is a chance for us to be clear about what powers local government should be able to exercise in the future too. I appreciate that, as the councillor in charge of housing in Islington, this argument might sound a bit […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour Conference 2014: Liveblog

    Labour Conference 2014: Liveblog

    12.44: Angela Eagle, chair of the National Policy Forum, has just addressed conference asking them to agree with Labour’s policy platform, which she called a “contract between us in the Labour party and the British people”. 11:48: Now Gloria de Piero and Jon Ashworth (who are focussing on member mobilisation) are talking to members and volunteers on stage. They’re also taking one of their “Labour Express” buses out on the doorstep over conference too. 11:36: General Secretary Iain McNicol now making […]

    Read more →
  • Featured What is “Labour’s Plan for Britain’s Future”? And what announcements are on the cards at conference?

    What is “Labour’s Plan for Britain’s Future”? And what announcements are on the cards at conference?

    The tagline of Labour conference this year is “Labour’s Plan for Britain’s Future”, and Britain’s future is very much up for grabs. Of course there’s a General Election in just eight months time, but the very nature of Britain and how Britain is governed has been thrown into question by the Scottish Independence referendum and its aftermath. As Miliband said on arriving in Manchester: “The last few months have been about keeping our country together. The next eight months will be […]

    Read more →
  • News Chuka Umunna calls for the Lords to be scrapped and replaced with a Senate

    Chuka Umunna calls for the Lords to be scrapped and replaced with a Senate

    In a flurry of interviews and announcements this morning (including Miliband announcing plans for a £8 an hour Minimum Wage, and Yvette Cooper confirming Labour will scrap Police and Crime Commissioners), Shadow Business Secretary has come out for Lords reform. In an interview with the Independent, he proposed a Senate modelled along the Spanish system as an alternative: “The House of Lords is unsustainable in its current form, and it’s a complete anachronism … The Spanish senate is not a […]

    Read more →
  • News Cooper confirms Labour will scrap Police and Crime Commissioners

    Cooper confirms Labour will scrap Police and Crime Commissioners

    That Labour would be scrapping Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) had been all but confirmed already. Now the Sunday Times(£) reports that Yvette Cooper will announce that they’re to be scrapped in her conference speech this Wednesday, but in the meantime, here’s what she told them: “This was Theresa May’s flagship reform and it just hasn’t worked…The model is just fundamentally flawed. It’s costing too much. They spent £80m on the original elections. It will cost £50m to hold the […]

    Read more →