Mid Staffordshire Inquiry Announcement

This blog was contributed by Dianne Jeffrey CBE DL, Chairman of Age UK and Joint Chair of the Commission on Dignity in Care.

What happened in the Mid-Staffordshire Foundation Trust was a truly sickening and extreme example of when training, professionalism, management, and structures all individually and collectively failed very vulnerable frail patients.

Dianne Jeffrey CBE DL, Chairman of Age UK and Joint Chair of the Commission on Dignity in Care
Dianne Jeffrey CBE DL, Chairman of Age UK and Joint Chair of the Commission on Dignity in Care

Few in the health sector could claim that Mid-Staffordshire Foundation Trust was an isolated case. Most of us have heard accounts of similar failures in care in our local hospitals or care homes, some relating to individual wards, others more widespread.

Today is a watershed moment for the NHS: 31 months after the  Francis report was commissioned the final report was published on the 6th February. The report makes 290 recommendations on how to improve the system and we must once and for all take this opportunity to make the deep and lasting changes that are required. A ‘sticking plaster solution’ is not going to be acceptable and will certainly not be enough to reassure millions of older people and their families. Continue reading “Mid Staffordshire Inquiry Announcement”

Dignity in Action Day 2013

The first of February marked Dignity Action Day, an annual opportunity for health and social care professionals and members of the public to raise awareness of people’s rights to dignity. There are over 40,000 Dignity Champions across the country who believe care services should be compassionate and person-centred. The Champions pledge to challenge poor care and act as good role models.  Dignity Action Day, organised by the Dignity in Care Network, is a time where local communities can come together to hold events and activities that promote and celebrate dignity.

Many organisations around the country marked Dignity in Action day. Just one example is Islington Age UK. Andy Murphy CEO of Age UK Islington was one of440x210_holding-hands the judges for Islington Council’s Care Worker Award.  The Care Worker Award recognises and showcases the work of formal care staff and contractors who provide a dignified service to residents. 18 finalists were nominated by Care Managers from across Islington with the winner announced on Dignity Action Day. Continue reading “Dignity in Action Day 2013”

Guest blog – Tackling the devastating consequences of malnutrition in older people

This blog was contributed by the Malnutrition Task Force

P3 - Malnutrition Taskforce Logo

Today malnutrition affects more than one million older people in the UK and the associated costs are estimated to be £13bn every year. The effects are profound and malnutrition increases the risk of falls, infections and delays recovery from illness and surgery.

In June 2012, an independent Malnutrition Task Force was  established to tackle malnutrition in older people in hospitals, care homes and their own home. The Malnutrition Task Force includes representation from charities, professionals, NHS, commissioners and providers and is chaired by Age UK Chairman Dianne Jeffrey.

Many cases of malnutrition can be prevented and there are many examples of good practice across the UK. Focus on Undernutrition in County Durham is a community based project that raises awareness and helps to prevent, identify and manage people at risk of malnutrition in their own home, care homes and community hospitals. The training programme for all health and social care staff introduces simple tools for accurate assessment of malnutrition.

Continue reading “Guest blog – Tackling the devastating consequences of malnutrition in older people”

Does the Chancellor realise that care can’t wait?

On Wednesday 5 December, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, will be giving his Autumn Statement to Parliament. After the Budget, it is one of the most important events in the Chancellor’s calendar. He will be explaining the current economic situation facing the country and will detail some of the Government’s plans for the future.

This is the perfect opportunity for the Chancellor to show that the Government is serious about tackling the crisis in social care. Back in July, we saw the White Paper, Caring for our future, which set out a range of proposals to radically reform the social care system. These included a minimum eligibility threshold, more rights for carers and reinforced by media reports , a commitment to the principle of capping the cost of care, to name just a few.

AgeUk at the Treasury with George Osborne MasksShould these proposals be implemented, they have the potential to make a huge difference to older people who rely on social care to live with dignity. However, the Government have yet to explain how they plan to fund these proposals, risking the whole process being kicked into the long grass. Continue reading “Does the Chancellor realise that care can’t wait?”

Shining a light on later life

This blog was contributed by Andy Glyde, Senior Campaigner at Age UK.

The BBC season on ageing, When I’m 65, produced some excellent hard-hitting documentaries on what it is like to get older. As a self-confessed telly addict and campaigner on older people’s issues, it was right up my street.

The good thing about the season was its boldness for not holding back. This was strikingly clear in the first programme, When I Get Older, which exposed some of the toughest issues faced by older people: poverty, isolation, loneliness, bereavement and caring for a partner, followed by life in a care home. Even I have to admit to shedding a tear or two as the four older celebrities went through their journey of discovery.

The crucial thing throughout the entire series was that all of the older celebrities involved were honest about their pre-conceptions about later life; Lesley Joseph thinking that families should be fine to care for loved ones, John Simpson seeing little point to living with dementia and Tony Robinson having such a negative attitude towards care homes. As one might expect with such stories, each experienced an epiphany to one level or another about how they had completely misjudged the situations they found themselves in. Not that later life is always rosy, but it certainly is not always as bad as one might think.

For me, the most inspiring show of the season was the one that seemed to arouse the least attention. How to Live Beyond 100 met some of Britain’s centenarians and found out their experiences of life having reached the big 1-0-0. From playing golf to swimming to being involved in the community, each highlighted the importance of being active in later life.

My particular favourite was Fauja Singh, the 101 year old marathon runner, for whom I have a huge amount of respect for, particularly as I ran past him in the London Marathon earlier this year. Continue reading “Shining a light on later life”

Guest Blog: Using online reviews to choose care homes

This guest blog was contributed by Lisa Trigg, Research Officer at LSE Health and Social Care, at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Last year, an Office of Fair Trading report highlighted the lack of information support for older people looking for care homes, and the recent Delivering Dignity report draws attention to the opportunity to help them with providing resident feedback on the internet. Last week’s White Paper, “Caring for our future: reforming care and support”, also included an announcement that the Department of Health will work with organisations to develop comparison websites for social care.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) recently identified over 30 websites dedicated to various listings and information on social care providers. Many of them provide links to the Care Quality Commission’s inspection reports, and some new sites, for example Good Care Guide, enable service users and their carers to post feedback on care homes. This function will also be available on SCIE’s own site Find Me Good Care, which launches later this summer. In addition, the Government recently awarded £160,000 to Patient Opinion, a publisher of online patient reviews on health care, to include reviews on social care providers.

TripAdvisor was set up in 2000 and contains over 60 million reviews on travel-related services such as hotels and restaurants. The idea of searching for feedback on the quality of products and services is increasingly common in service and goods industries. A website where people seeking care could go and access a range of opinions on care providers seems like a strikingly obvious service to provide.

However, Patient Opinion recently encountered a number of challenges when they introduced a pilot with two care home providers. A major problem arose due to the difficulty of protecting the anonymity of users. Care homes have far fewer residents than hotels have guests, so it could be easy for staff to figure out who posted negative reviews of a care home.

It is important for the identity of a frail, vulnerable resident of a care home to be protected to avoid the risk of poor care or even abuse. This also applies to care home staff. Hoteliers and restaurant owners have been subject to a range of personal accusations on TripAdvisor, ranging from racism to alleged assault and theft.

Patient Opinion also highlights the difficulties of motivating people to post reviews. Ratings websites like TripAdvisor are based on generating the ‘wisdom of crowds’. For care homes, this would mean that if enough people posted reviews, the average review would eventually give an accurate reflection of what the care home is really like.

However, many residents may not be able to post their own feedback, whether this is because of a lack of access or a lack of experience with using the internet, or because of the high proportion of residents who are living with dementia. For relatives and carers meanwhile, there is the concern about the knock-on effects if they post a poor review.

From a more practical perspective, residents are likely to live in residential care for many months or even years. For hotels and restaurants, customers will stay for as little as one night or one meal. This means there are enough customers experiencing the service to generate significantly more reviews. Even then, the number of reviews can be in stark contrast to the number of users. One study worked out that for the most popular Harry Potter book, only one in 1,300 purchasers posted a review on Amazon.

Despite all this, it’s important to recognise that people will increasingly look to the internet for information on care home quality. What people really want is to be able to find out what it’s really like to live in a particular care home.

The opportunity then is to harness resources and technology to manage the information process. For example, how can we capture larger amounts of feedback from residents, relatives and employees? And then how do we combine this with the views of organisations such as the CQC, local authorities or Age UK and present it to the public in a careful and sensitive way? Or alternatively, how can we use technology to put people in touch with each other when what they really need is to talk to someone like themselves who has experience of the home?

The focus needs to be on identifying the support and information people really need, and then developing creative ways of providing it.

Watch a video blog about the challenges of delivering care in care homes 

Read our latest social care reform briefing 

Guest Blog: why I welcome the Government’s actions to overhaul social care system

This blog was contributed by Dr Dan Poulter, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich and a member of the Health Select Committee

Yesterday’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Health on the Government’s plans to radically reform the way we support and care for our older people is both welcome and long overdue.

For too long, our frail older people have been pushed from pillar to post when attempting to navigate our unwieldy social care system. The Caring for our future White Paper shows that this Government is getting to grips with reforming the system of social care so that frail elderly people are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Redesigning health and social care services to provide dignity in care for older people is the biggest human and financial challenge facing health and social services. Continue reading “Guest Blog: why I welcome the Government’s actions to overhaul social care system”