My mother in law, Pauline, who is over 80, had a fall this week, and was obliged to visit the Accident and Emergency Department at the West Suffolk Hospital. The outcome was not too bad, but she has cracked a bone in her arm and will have to wear a sling for a few weeks. In the old days Pauline would probably have been taken in to hospital, at least for a few days. It is a sign of the times that she was in fact home again within a few hours and now has carers, arranged by the hospital, coming in morning and evening to help her out. (I am happy to say that she was very pleased with the service that she received at the hospital.)
My mother in law’s experience is not unusual. Hospital beds are at a premium and funding for public services generally is limited to say the least. Councils and the NHS have realised that it is much better to look after people in their own homes as far as possible. Patients generally prefer it, and in general it is a more cost effective solution for the organisations involved.
The same applies to those who need longer term care; better to support them in their own homes than to assume that a care home is the short term rather than a possible long term solution.
Caring for people at home is a huge topic and means a totally different way of working for both the County Council and for the National Health Service. Importantly it is a function that neither organisation can fulfil alone, and therefore co-operation between the health and care services is vital.
In my Mother in Law’s case the system worked well. This is not always the case however, and getting it right in all circumstances is a challenge.
The Health and Adult Care Policy Group that I chair at the County Council will be looking at the whole subject of ‘Care at Home’ over the next few months. At the end of last year the council undertook a wide consultation on the issues involved among care users, carers and care providers. The panel will be looking at the results of this to see how services can be better designed. We will also be looking at how the community at large can be encouraged to help those at home, how housing might be adapted, and how those who need care can fund it. I am sure that other topics will also arise in the course of discussion.
Any feedback from readers of this site will be much appreciated!