Dr Jackie Morris is currently Dignity Champion for the British Geriatrics Society, and a Trustee of the British Institute of Human Rights.
On 23 February, I attended a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for Health on behalf of the BGS; this particular meeting focused on the challenge of delivering high quality, integrated and compassionate care for older people.
During, the meeting (chaired by Baroness Masham of Ilton), we heard from a varied panel of speakers including Lord Warner, Professor Martin Green, Roy James (President of the Association of Adult Social Services), Caroline Abrahams (Charity Director of Age UK), and Helen Birtwhistle (Director of External Affairs at the NHS Confederation).
Both Lord Warner and Professor Martin Green, in their introductory talks, emphasised that the current health and social care systems were designed for the 1940s, when life expectancy was much shorter and the need to care for older people with multiple complex conditions was less common. They also stressed that the current care home system and home care system funded by Local Authority social care budgets will collapse unless appropriate funding is provided. Emerging from these two issues, the speakers also highlighted a reluctance on the part of private providers of care homes and domiciliary care to continue delivering publically funded care.
Roy James talked about how a collapse of social care would lead to major problems in the delivery of health care. He explained that social care builds on people’s assets and is the “glue to care”: integration of care will only work if there is sufficient care in the community. He acknowledged that there is still tremendous variation around the delivery of care, with the current system focusing primarily on just those with the most need but despite this there is a high level of satisfaction by those who receive services.
Helen Birtwhistle from the NHS Confederation talked about acute health systems, referencing their recent Growing Old Together publication, which emphasises that services need to be driven by patient experience, the person’s needs and personal goals, and a greater focus on proactive care, care coordination and navigation.
All speakers emphasised the importance of training across all sectors, and collaborative or multi-disciplinary working. There was agreement that services for older people require a radical rethink of how health and social care must be delivered, right across the health and social care system, with people of all ages encouraged to plan for their old age. Most important, however, is the financial and moral imperative to ensure that funding for health and social care matches society’s increasing needs.
Image credit: Graham Stanley via flickr