Last year I lost a relative in his 80s to cancer. While the hospital care he received was good, there were issues around co-ordinating access to social care and meeting his needs. Care professionals did their best, but the system was under strain.
Most of us will have our own care needs now or in the future, whether for ourselves or someone close to us. At Future Care Capital (FCC), we believe that those receiving care should be at the heart of debates on health and social care provision. As a national charity, we are here to stimulate, and facilitate, new thinking about health and social care in the UK.
The Office for National Statistics predicts that the number of people aged over 85 will double to 3.2 million, or 4% of the population, by mid-2041. The impact of this increased demand on health and social care provision in years will clearly be significant.
The Government’s long-anticipated adult social care Green Paper provides an opportunity to move this debate forward. It is unclear when it will be published, given that Brexit continues to dominate the political agenda. But politicians must not ignore the need to deliver on key domestic challenges, including adult social care provision.
Those of you on the frontline know the issues well:
• the growth in numbers of older people with long-term physical and mental health conditions brings with it increasing demand on finite resources;
• health and care professionals are more stretched than ever, with implications for the quality and standard of care they can reasonably be expected to give;
• unpaid carers struggle to achieve ‘work-life-care balance’ and an estimated 6.5 million workers often lack support from their employers; and
• many people using services expect their care to be personalised, with the opportunity to talk to about their care needs with a familiar face.
The recent NHS 10 year-plan was a welcome first step in addressing this, but without the complementary Green Paper, we have only half of the full picture. We also need details about how local challenges will be addressed. Too often, the government’s focus has been on building a strategic response to institutional challenges.
Our ageing society presents a major policy challenge at all levels. FCC’s recent report, Facilitating Care Insight to Develop Caring Economies, gives practical recommendations to help central and local government prepare better to manage the challenges and opportunities our longevity presents. Current planning and data collection methods are inadequate and perpetuate an outdated view of adult social care provision. We hope that the Ministers preparing to launch the Green Paper will avoid the lure of a shiny new approach based on the old-fashioned concept of social care and instead opt for a more local approach that embraces the needs and assets of different communities.
In all of this, the role of the unpaid carer is of course vital. The number of unpaid carers is growing, with Carers UK estimating that they will total 9 million by 2037. Their health and wellbeing should be a greater priority. Carers’ strain is increasingly common, as individuals struggle to balance their needs with those they care for. With this in mind, we have commissioned a UK-wide study working with YouGov and Legal & General, to identify gaps in support for carers. We need a frank debate about the role of unpaid carers in our society and we hope that our findings, to be published in the Spring, will contribute to this.
There is a great deal to focus on. But I try not to lose sleep because my energy is best directed towards doing what I can to influence policy-makers and creating a better context for the essential work done by carers in all settings.
CEO of Future Care Capital, Greg Allen is a senior leader who has worked across the health and care sectors. He was a commercial Chief Executive of the Centre for Workforce Intelligence within Kier Group plc, Director at Nuffield Health and a senior civil servant at the Department of Health. Greg’s approach to transformational leadership is grounded in his broad experience across the commercial, public and third sectors.