A & E units are being swamped by the elderly who are ill due to lack of care, according to a report by the Care Quality Commission.
The Report, ‘State of Care’, has found that the combination of the growing ageing population, people with more long-term conditions and a difficult economic climate has meant there is a greater demand on services and people are finding it more difficult to access the care they need.
According to the Report, 200,000 more people than five years ago were denied the help they needed with everyday tasks. The number of people offered Council funded places in care homes has also decreased by 26%. Without the support they need, the elderly are falling ill – resulting in thousands of additional A & E attendances and emergency admissions that could have been avoided if proper care had been provided.
Further, when elderly patients are treated in hospitals, they are frequently unable to return home because care cannot be provided so that it safe for them to do so. Around 184,000 nights a month are lost in NHS hospitals as a result of the elderly having to stay there unnecessarily – a problem is referred to as ‘bed-blocking’. This has increased by 25% over the last year.
The Report has highlighted that Councils are in need of billions of pounds to cope with needs and demands of the elderly population which has increased by a third in the past decade. The lack of funding and consequent lack of availability of social care is not only impacting the people themselves who aren’t getting the support they need, but it is also impacting the resources of the NHS. This in turn is affecting the ability of an increasing number of primary care trusts to meet both their financial and performance targets.
The State of Care report was based on the findings of 20,000 inspections, covering care homes, hospitals, ambulances, GP surgeries and mental health services. It is the first comprehensive picture of the health and care system since regulation of the same was overhauled three years ago.
Of those inspected, 48% of A&E services were noted as requiring improvement and 9% were marked as inadequate. A&E wards had to cope with a million more visits compared to five years ago, in addition to half a million more emergency hospital admissions.
General wards for the elderly were also found to be in need of attention – 52% required improvement and 4% were rated inadequate.
The Report also revealed that one in ten hospitals are unsafe. Problems highlighted included operations performed on the wrong part of the body and patients given incorrect medication. Only one in five hospitals met the safety standards required.
Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society Jeremy Hughes said: “The NHS and social care go hand-in-hand — we cannot fix one if the other remains broken.”
What you can do
If an elderly relative or friend is paying for their own care, make sure they have had an assessment for NHS Continuing Healthcare funding. With budgets stretched thinly, Councils aren’t in a rush to mention this little-known source of funding, and where it is mentioned, sometimes the wrong information will be given.
With more funding decisions being refused than ever before, you should take steps now to protect your individual share of the family wealth from care fees in the future. One way to do this is to leave your share of the family home and any savings or investments in trust in your Will to your partner. Your partner has lifetime use of your share of the property and assets, after which your children, grandchildren or anyone else you choose can inherit. If your partner needs care after your death, the Local Authority cannot consider your share of assets when conducting a means test and it will not be used for care fees.
Make sure your elderly relatives have both types of Lasting Power of Attorney in place. If they lose mental capacity in the future and need care, their chosen attorneys can be present for healthcare assessments, in addition to making care decisions for them and helping them with their finances.
Everyone aged 18 or over should make both types of Lasting Power of Attorney themselves. People lose mental capacity at all stages in life – due to illness or a brain injury – and without these documents, your friends or relatives will have to apply to the Court for a Deputyship Order to be able to help you with health and care or financial decisions – a lengthy and expensive process.
Speak to our Later Life Planning team about any of the above issues.