Care system for the elderly ‘falling to bits’

Care system - 'more needs to be done'
Care system - 'more needs to be done'

A WIGAN charity leader has slammed a “crumbling elderly care system” after it was revealed it cost the NHS £669m in the last five years.

Chief Officer at Age UK Wigan Borough, John McArdle, says more needs to be done at a higher level in order to support the borough’s aging population after research by the charity discovered 2.4 million hospital bed days were lost as a result of “bed-blocking” by the elderly because of a lack of outside support.

The charity has blamed the crisis on the large number of cuts throughout the last few years.

Mr McArdle said: “This report is further confirmation that the social care system is broken and needs major repair.

“For too many older people, as they reach a point when care is needed, it just isn’t there or is insufficient. The cost isn’t just borne by older people; other parts of the health and social care system pay a price in discharges not happening in a timely way or relatively minor needs being left and escalating into a major concern.

“The election of a government committed to further austerity isn’t good news for social care. A third of council social care spending has vanished in the past five years and more cuts have yet to hit.

“Older people, some of the most vulnerable and needy in our society, are easy prey for cuts. That is morally wrong and financially shortsighted.”

At the beginning of this year Wiganers teamed up with the borough’s GPs to launch an extra service to support the elderly which was trialled across 10 local practices in a bid to combat so-called “bed blocking”.

Led by volunteers, it aims to provide one to one support to help older people access services and activities.

The new scheme’s aim is to help people find longer term support. For example, someone may have been recently bereaved or moved into the area and not know anyone. Money or debt problems can also affect people’s health.

Mr McArdle added: “This project offers a real opportunity to help older people have a genuinely better standard of health and wellbeing.

“Working with GPs and practice staff, volunteers will be able to offer tailored and individual support to enable older people to address the issues of importance to them. Rather than just giving people information, support will be on hand to help access services and take the first steps in doing something new or different.

“We have been heartened by the engagement with Wigan Borough CCG and staff in the GP practices in Chandler House and Leigh. All of the staff involved are keen to deliver more joined up support to older people at the times when it really matters and in ways to make real difference. “Sometimes, very simple and practical support, such as going along with an older person to an activity or event can be really powerful and life changing.

“We are keen to see this sort of work roll out across the borough and believe that it can be very cost effective in helping keep some older people out of hospital or care homes.”