The social care shortfall is now at such a critical point that the quality of care itself is falling. More than ever before, people are having to watch their loved ones experience a standard far below what they deserve; just further evidence that existing care practices are both undesirable and deeply flawed.
Recent research by the charity Independent Age has shown that that 66% of MPs in England, of which 53% are Conservative and 82% are Labour MPs, are concerned that the quality of care homes will deteriorate over the next year without Government action. This is a stark reminder of the challenge facing Jeremy Hunt in his new expanded role as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
Hunt’s first real test will be the forthcoming social care Green Paper. The quality of care should certainly be addressed in this, with plans for both the long and short term. With so many MPs seemingly having lost faith in their local care homes market, it’s time to get on with finding a solution.
For too long, the perception has been that social care and health care are two separate entities. This has caused challenges and prevented any real resolution to the strain on the social care system. The move to integrate the two has seemingly stalled, to be replaced with funding promises that, in reality, will have little long-term effect. Key to ensuring delivery is collaboration and addressing the barriers preventing us taking a holistic approach. Despite Hunt’s name change, the budgets currently remain separate which will only continue to delay any real change.
While there may be no ‘silver bullet’ to how we deal with the creaking care system, we do know that high quality housing options that offer high quality, flexible care is a model that works. 86% of the older generation are still living in a family-sized home which is often unsuitable to their changing needs – yet according to our research 99% of people do not want to enter a care home. This is largely due to the existing stereotype that surrounds both care homes and old fashioned sheltered accommodation, with many feeling that it is something to dread.
Retirement villages provide homes which can be adapted with care provision as and when needed and also allow owners to maintain their independence, choice and lifestyle for as long as possible. Offering high-quality properties alongside facilities including restaurants, spas and gyms creates a real sense of community, while dedicated care is available when health needs change so that they can continue to live on their own terms, but with the necessary support.
Research by the ILC found that living in accommodation which facilitates living independently yet offers this flexible care is associated with a lower take-up of inpatient hospital beds. What’s more, communal living in retirement villages has a significant impact on reducing the risk of social isolation amongst those that live there, which has been shown to also have an effect on people’s physical well-being.
We need to stop wringing our hands and ignoring the benefits that high quality retirement property delivers if we are to move forward in any way. If bureaucracy is preventing health and social care professionals from working together for the benefit of patients, then UK society suffers as a whole.