Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Critical of Provisions for Elderly

Research conducted by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman suggests that elderly people are reluctant to make complaints about poor healthcare, or do not know how to do so.

56 per cent of those aged over 65 who experienced a problem did not complain owing to worries regarding future treatment.

A further 20 per cent of those surveyed did not even know how to submit a complaint, while one-in-three felt that any form of complaint would have made minimal or no difference to the situation.

The ombudsman reflected that many elderly people are simply suffering in silence, and that this is an issue of which health service workers need to be aware.

Julie Mellor from the ombudsman suggested that the attitude of the NHS could lead to missed opportunities to improve the service for elderly people.

The research involved a national survey of almost 700 people over the age of 65, as well as focus groups and case studies.

Increasingly it seems that there is a technological gulf between the elderly and the NHS.

One carer told the authors of the report that when older people experienced a problem, not only do they not know where to go, but they are often referred to a computer or website to which they have no access.

While library usage can be an option, in many cases elderly people simply do not have the skills to use these automated systems.

The report recommended a more proactive approach from NHS providers, saying they should make sure all users know how to complain and are reassured there will not be repercussions.

Although the report generally painted a negative picture of the situation, it was not all bad news for the NHS.

The report did state that some form of progress had been made, with the government having already made steps to explore a new streamlined public ombudsman service in order to handle complaints in the future.

But despite this relatively cheery note, campaigners still consider the research a significant cause for concern.

Commenting on the issue, Age UK director Caroline Abrahams suggested that the NHS was fundamentally failing to pay heed to the experiences and viewpoints of elderly people.

“Seeking and responding to older people’s views and experiences is crucial if we are to prevent future care scandals like those that have too often blighted our hospitals and care homes in recent years.”

Healthwatch England said a universal, independent complaints advocacy service that was easy to find and simple to use would improve the situation.

With the NHS under increasing pressure, it is clear that streamline processes need to be put in place to ensure that the elderly are dealt with more efficiently.

 
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Leading charities unite to call on NHS to improve care for people with LTCs

The NHS is spending £75bn a year treating people with long term conditions (LTCs) but too many people are still not receiving the care they need warns a new report by The Richmond Group, a coalition of 10 leading health and social care charities.

The report, ‘Vital Signs: Taking the temperature of health and social care for services for people living with long term conditions’, states that the standard of care for the 15 million people in England who live with at least one LTC is inconsistent and that not enough people are getting the care and support they need to live well.

“Too often, we are failing to provide the right level of care and support needed by people with long term conditions and as a direct result of inadequate care their health is being put at greater risk with devastating consequences”, said Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK.

“For example, we are seeing people with diabetes lose limbs when an amputation could have been prevented, and people with asthma are dying unnecessarily. And it’s not just a case of immense, unnecessary human cost; with the NHS spending £7 in every £10 on managing long term conditions and their complications, sub-standard care is also putting huge strain on the NHS budget.”

Tom Wright, chief executive of Age UK and Chair of The Richmond Group, said: “We have known for some time what needs to happen to support people with long term conditions to survive and thrive, so the challenge is putting that knowledge into practice for everyone, right across the NHS and within social care. With long-term conditions affecting a massive one in six of us today, now is the time for action.”

 
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GMB give support to warning over funding cuts to elderly care

GMB, the union for care home staff, has supported a warning from Britain’s biggest providers of care homes for the elderly that cuts to public funding for residents are potentially damaging and homes will close if the situation does not improve.

The warning that the system is in crisis comes from Four Seasons, Bupa and HC-One – the three largest operators in the UK’s £24bn care home market – and has been made amid growing concerns about health and social care funding ahead of the general election in May.

According to data compiled by Age UK (the UK’s largest charity for older people) the Government cut its spending on care homes for the elderly by nearly a fifth between 2010 and 2014.

Chai Patel, chairman of HC-One, said the cuts “risked damaging our health and social care system irreparably.”

However, the Department of Health has said it had taken steps to protect social care services by giving an extra £1.1bn to councils.

“GMB support the warning from the three operators that the system is in crisis”, said Justin Bowden, GMB national officer for social care. The repeated warnings from GMB that Southern Cross would collapse were ignored again and again by government.

“Warnings that the entire care sector is in a slow motion collapse, albeit for different reasons to Southern Cross, are falling on the same deaf ears. If we are not prepared to learn the lessons of history, we are destined to repeat them.”

It is expected that demand for care home places will increase over the next 50 years, with the number of over-65s forecast to rise from 10.6m in 2010 to 16.1m in 2035.

 
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