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PRESS RELEASE Can a Care Crisis be avoided?

14/03/2017

Can a care crisis be avoided?

With news that yet another Liverpool care home is to close, Healthwatch Liverpool issues a warning – we are approaching the point when the care system cannot accommodate even those who most desperately need it. 2 homes have closed in the past 12 months and a further 4 homes have announced that they will be closing in the next 3 months. In total this represents more than 220 beds lost to the system.

We don't think that the system can cope if more beds are lost.

Liverpool City Council's cabinet member for health and social care, Cllr Brant declared in a recent BBC interview "I think anybody who looks at the current [social care] situation should be worried... and if they're not worried, they don't understand it" We agree. We hear from the concerned members of the public and professionals under strain in a system that is struggling to cope and faces further cuts when what is really required is more investment.

As Healthwatch Liverpool we can't fix these problems but we want to encourage a serious and honest conversation about how a crisis in social care can be headed off.

When a care home closes, its residents must be rehoused. Some residents may be able to live with support in community settings but most will need to be found a place in a different care home. It is hard enough to face moving, involuntarily, to another care home late in life or due to serious ill health. This is made worse if there is a lack of options to choose from. With each care home that closes it gets harder for places to be found to move its residents into.

The closures also make it more difficult for anyone who needs to go into a care home in future. Most people who go into a care home in Liverpool do so after a stay in hospital when returning to their own home is not an option. Ideally this may be for a short period while regaining some health and independence but for some people it can be a long term move. If care cannot be found for people (either in a care home or with a home care package), they stay in hospital longer than necessary.

We are concerned that with each care home closure this is likely to happen more often. This is not good for a person's health and is distressing for them and their families. It is also not good for the NHS – beds occupied by people who are ready to be discharged to somewhere more suitable are beds tied up and not available for the next person who needs them.

We very much welcome the news that Liverpool City Council have announced 150 beds at new "step up centres" to help reduce hospital admissions but we know that these centres will take time to get up and running and start having an impact on the impending crisis.

We also welcome initiatives being developed by the health and care services to help more people return home sooner, often receiving their health care and assessment at home rather than in hospital.

We know that the new Royal Liverpool Hospital will have fewer beds than the existing building when it opens. It will be more important than ever that that all those beds are being used for people who really do need to be in hospital. This means ensuring that health and social care services are resourced and able to support as many people as possible in their homes or other care settings.

The NHS is under significant and growing pressure with limited budgets and increasing need. We want to highlight the fact that health and social care services shouldn't be viewed in isolation. The availability of care home places has a very real impact on the effectiveness of NHS services in Liverpool.

The government has begun to acknowledge the challenges ahead by announcing £2bn extra funding for social care over the next 3 years but, spread out across the whole country, the worry is that it may not be enough to address the growing level of need.

Healthwatch Liverpool Chair, Lynn Collins says "This isn't a problem that is about to go away. We need to find a way to avoid a full scale crisis. This will take health and care services working together to tackle the problems. We believe that social care also needs a longer term funding solution and plan."

We want to hear from the public. How is the pressure on social care affecting your life and the lives of your family members? By hearing your experiences and what matters to you, we can help ensure that as new services and initiatives are being developed, they are guided by the interests of the people who will use them.

Understanding the problem

  • Some care homes have struggled to meet the standards required by the Care Quality Commission who inspect health and care services. Some have closed as a result. Others have closed because of financial or other pressures.
  • A lot of Liverpool's care homes are in old buildings which need a lot of work to clean and maintain and would require investment to make them viable in the long term.
  • Most care homes in Liverpool are privately owned – some as family businesses and some as part of large chains. When a care home closes, this can happen very quickly, sometimes leaving little time for residents to be found a new home. The speed of closures also makes it difficult to plan for the long term. This is very different to NHS services where changes are planned and consulted upon.
  • Many people in care homes have their care either fully or partly paid for by the local council. This is more often the case in Liverpool where incomes and savings are lower than in most areas of the country. Given the scale of cuts to local authority funding, the amounts that councils can pay to care homes is limited.

-Ends-

NOTES TO EDITORS
• Healthwatch Liverpool was established in April 2013 to ensure that everyone who uses NHS and social care services in Liverpool is well informed about the options that are available to them and to hear the public's experiences of using these services.
• Healthwatch Liverpool is part of a national network made up of local Healthwatches across each of the 152 local authority areas and Healthwatch England, the national body and is independent of the NHS and local authorities.
• For more information about Healthwatch Liverpool visit www.healthwatchliverpool.co.uk.
• Healthwatch Liverpool can be contacted on 0300 7777 007 or email enquiries@healthwatchliverpoool.co.uk

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