Broken Health & Social Care: my view

Posted on: 8th February 2015

Broken Health & Social Care: my view, based on personal experience locally and some reflections.

Those close to me and my husband will know we had a difficult weekend trying our best to care for his disabled sister in circumstances that were distressing for all and probably risky for all. The background to the situation started about two & a half years ago but reached crisis and a low point last weekend. I pondered a blog describing the details of that experience but as his sister does not have the capacity to consent, that seems unfair. Instead you have a sanitised, reflective and less emotionally charged account.

How we got to where we were was because professionals in Health and Social Care focused on labels, each agency doing the minimum perhaps hoping the other might do a bit more/ take responsibility. There was also too much emphasis on ‘this is what we have available’ or ‘this is what we fund’ and both K and the family got lost. There was contact with her but she was neither seen nor heard. Those who knew her least were influencing/ making the decisions which turned out to be the wrong ones.

Whilst with us we had to call the paramedics and they involved the out of hours GP service. Health professionals were unhappy with the situation but over the weekend nothing could be offered. It was Monday when we virtually carried her to the car so my husband could take her to her GP and I, in response to the Social Worker ringing & asking, “How was the weekend” broke down & gave a frank account! She now has a respite bed in a nursing home, hopefully, where a better assessment & understanding of her situation & needs can take place.

So, some will say the Health Service needs more beds and both services need more money. I fear that neither, nor both will fix the problems! There is too much fragmentation with each bit of each service protecting its own resources & reputation looking to shift blame for shortcomings elsewhere. Some how we need to stop fragmenting health & social care services and encourage a culture of really seeing and listening to people.

Now to the challenge of money. Funding for all public services comes from taxes and yet, I have not met anyone who looks to maximise their tax liability. Human nature wants to minimise personal tax paid. Changes to employment patterns and the fact that multi-Nationals can choose where to pay tax also contributes to reduced tax receipts. Hargreaves & Lansdown reports “despite employment rising by 1.3 m in the past five years, the number of taxpayers has fallen by 2.2m. Compared to the 2014 forecasts, the Office for Budget Responsibility calculates a £25bn shortfall in income tax revenues.” Remember that it is income tax receipts that fund our public sector so not enough money is flowing in to fund the standards of Health & Social Care that people demand. Given that there are organisational/ structural issues that do not make best use of the money allocated, it is no wonder that Health & Social Care appear broken!

Fixing things is more challenging but we need to design and fund AN ORGANISATION that can assess & meet the health (& I include mental health) & social needs of individuals in partnership with their families. We need to find a way to simplify how people access & engage with services, particularly health, as at the moment it is too complicated & when people get it wrong it puts further strain on limited resources.