A leading carers charity has suggested that a lack of community service is proving detrimental for emergency care in the NHS.
Carers UK has produced a report entitled Pressure Points, which outlines the extent to which unpaid carers are relied upon by the existing healthcare system.
Over 20% of carers have been forced to transport a relative to accident and emergency owing to the impossibility of acquiring a district nurse or out of hours GP.
Meanwhile, the majority of carers who have been involved in transporting a patient to A&E concluded that admission could have been prevented with higher quality support.
The charity particularly highlighted the reduction in the provision of local care, which is contributing significantly to an overall rise in Accident and Emergency visits and ultimately hospital admissions.
There were over 500,000 more visits to A&E than during the same period last year, according to the report.
Commenting on the research, Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, points out that the healthcare system is not even the primary carer in Britain.
‘The majority of care provided in England is not by doctors, nurses or care workers, but by family and friends. These carers have told us that they aren’t able access the support they need, when they need it, from community health and care services, so they are reluctantly having to turn to A&E.”
Herklots believes that the dialogue over care must be improved if the situation is to be mended.
“What’s more, a lack of consultation, support and information at the point their loved one is discharged from hospital means that many families are taking on a caring role in a crisis and feel unprepared. This isn’t sustainable and is leading to many people being readmitted to hospital shortly after they’ve been discharged, piling more pressure on an already stretched NHS.”
Responding to Pressure Points, vice chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) community wellbeing board, Cllr Linda Thomas, equally suggested that the care system is all too reliant on unpaid carers.
“Unpaid carers play an invaluable role that saves the economy an estimated £132bn a year. Without them, social care and the NHS would collapse. Supporting carers is fundamentally important to local government, and we fully backed the important changes brought in by the Care Act to improve the lives of carers, in particular the move to ensure that carers are recognised in law in the same way as those they care for.”
Thomas explained that a lack of funding for fundamental in the problems facing social care.
“The continuing underfunding of adult social care by government has limited councils’ ability to provide support to vulnerable people and their carers. Less than a third of councils say they are confident there is enough money to meet growing levels of need this year and beyond. Getting people out of hospital more quickly and back living at home will only work properly if councils get enough resource throughout the whole year to fund adequate provision of care services.”