We desperately need to care more for the elderly… but now it seems we couldn't care less.

In the light of the recent BBC Panorama exposé on disastrous care home treatment, partner and former nurse Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp pleads for an urgent review of the way we look after society’s elderly infirm…

When I was a nurse I had the pleasure of working with elderly patients.

They were often admitted for several complaints. And they remained in hospital, gradually getting better, until they could go home with a carefully arranged care package to make sure they could manage. Arranged by us staff nurses who knew what they could manage.

The package wasn’t paid for by the elderly person, and district nurses oversaw a team of dedicated carers in the community. Sometimes the patient never made it home. And we looked after them – with  love and respect – until they died peacefully and with dignity when their time had come.

As the shocking Panorama programme shows, things are very different now.

The elderly are now admitted as before. But then they’re often discharged to a home. Or, with a fragmented care package, to their own home. As a lawyer I’ve seen endless cases of appalling care, sometimes causing great pain and suffering – even death. So what happened? How on earth did we get to this awful place?

I think there was a change in policy that not many knew about or would have agreed to. It went like this…

It costs the NHS a lot to care for the elderly properly. If only they could be sent to private homes, and made to pay for their care by selling their own homes, huge amounts would be saved.

For those sent home, there were other ways of saving money for the NHS. ‘Care’ packages could be farmed out to social services. And private agencies could be employed. They, in turn, could employ badly trained (or zero-trained) carers at the cheapest rates.

Private homes proliferated, as have private agencies. And they make a lot of money. But where did the savings to the NHS go? I certainly don’t know. Does anyone? Maybe it was back to the NHS. For fancy scanners and treatments to keep us all alive longer, so we can share the misery that many of our elderly endure now.

Enough is enough. We desperately need a root-and-branch review involving representatives from stakeholders – charities like AGE UK, home and agency owners, NHS and  social services. A review that will actually deliver changes, not just recommendations. To truly reflect the needs of our largest and fastest-growing vulnerable sector of society.

If the government has time and money to waste messing about with the House of Lords,  they must have both for this… 

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