A political certainty in 2015? From Localism to Devolution

This week we have a blog post from Mervyn Kohler, Special Adviser, at Age UK. 

Even before the Scottish referendum campaign, there was a growing surge of interest in more devolution. It is a theme supported by all of the political parties. It is presented as the most promising way to get appropriate policies and practices implemented across areas and communities with widely varying needs, and also as a key to local economic regeneration and growth.

The early days of the Coalition were characterised by an enthusiasm for localism and the Big Society, and the burst of legislative activity linked to this was in some respects the harbinger of the deeper devolution idea. Conservative distain for ‘big government’ and Liberal instincts for local democracy came together serendipitously.   We had local government given a ‘general power of competence’, and neighbourhoods were empowered to develop local plans (to address spatial planning and planning permission issues) and eventually to draw up neighbourhood or community budgets. We have the Community Right to Challenge (for the delivery of public services), the Community Right to Build (if approved by a local referendum), and the Right to Bid for community assets. Continue reading

A relative in need brings home the importance of human rights

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To mark  Human Rights Day, Nicky Hawkins, Communications Director for Equally Ours – a campaign set up by eight national (including Age UK) charities to talk about the importance of human rights and how they benefit us all in everyday life, has contributed a guest post. 

It’s Human Rights Day today. Many reading this will wonder what this really means. Another day, another cause or issue to be championed or concerned about – why are human rights any different?

Despite working on human rights every day, it wasn’t until my mum had a spell in hospital that I felt like I had an answer to that question. She’s being cared for mainly at home now and her hospital stay was mercifully brief. But for me, hearing about her experience – from the trauma of a bad night to the relief of having someone sit with her and explain what was going on – brought home the vital importance of human rights for people who are reliant on others for their care.

Human rights mean there’s a system in place if something goes wrong. But, just as importantly, they provide reassurance to people who are vulnerable when they most need it. Jan, a disabled woman who used human rights laws says “it helped me to feel stronger because it told me it’s ok to want to be treated like a human being.” What could be more important when you’re frightened and alone? Continue reading

More needed to make Britain a great place to grow older

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

Our latest blog has been contributed by Mike Smith, joint Head of Public affairs at Age UK, commenting on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

As we continue to digest the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor’s announcement contained some welcome news for older people, but lacked action on some of the biggest issues Age UK has been campaigning on to make Britain a great place to grow older in the coming years.

What was in the statement? Certainly we heard some welcome news around the £2billion extra funding for the NHS, and the additional £1.2billion to improve GP services.  As people grow older many of us will rely more and more on vital health services.  As Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, highlighted in the Five Year Forward View the NHS will need an additional £8billion a year in the coming years and so this is a positive start. Continue reading

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Is the NHS on the brink of a winter crisis?

The mild days of late autumn are barely gone, yet concerns about a looming winter crisis in the NHS are already hitting the headlines. With financial pressure growing, performance targets slipping and hospitals already overstretched, a political storm has hit Westminster and Whitehall. Could another cold snap tip the NHS over the edge?

A SLIPPERY SLOPE?

Winter pressures in the NHS happen every year, as a result of higher emergency admissions and increased numbers of people requiring hospital care (e.g. people with respiratory conditions or winter viruses). Most of those affected are older people, many of whom have higher care needs and can be more vulnerable to the cold.

Yet, despite anticipatory planning and the usual precautions, there are growing concerns that accident and emergency (A&E) services are heading inevitably towards a midwinter meltdown. NHS statistics have revealed that A&E performance in late autumn this year has been worse than in the depths of last winter.

On average over the past four weeks, just 93.5% of patients attending A&E in England were seen within four hours, with 23 trusts failing to reach 90% last week. By contrast, above 95% of patients were seen within the required timeframe last winter.

WHAT ABOUT PATIENT SAFETY?

The unprecedented demand on A&Es has serious implications for older people’s health and experience of care. The high levels of bed occupancy have led to people being held in ambulances outside the hospital or waiting on trolleys for many hours. This has also had a knock-on effect on other hospital services, with patients having their appointments and operations cancelled.

For the many older people who are lonely and isolated, or living with frailty or dementia, the inability of A&Es to respond to their needs can be disastrous. Due to a lack of appropriate support in the community, they are often forced to wait until they reach a crisis for a response and rely on emergency admissions for help. Arriving in a worse state of health, they are then faced with a fraught and overstretched urgent care centre or A&E. Continue reading