Let’s Expose the Big Secret …. ‘They’ expect you to pay
Last week’s papers brought us the story of the NHS introducing a system of warning letters to try and stop ‘bed-blocking’ by medically fit elderly patients. Other recent reports have shown that over 220,000 days of hospital delays are being caused annually due to elderly patients not moving through and out of the hospital system quickly enough; an increase of 25% in the last two years with numbers still rising.
According to reports, some NHS managers have decided to threaten families of elderly patients with legal proceedings, if they do not move out of the hospital within 3 weeks of being declared medically fit. This particular report clearly blames the families, as it concludes the problem of ‘bed blocking’ is significantly reduced if the elderly person resides in a care home or receives home care funded by their Local Authority. This is contrasted with the higher number of elderly people remaining in hospital who are classified as ‘self-funded’. These ‘self funders’ and their families are apparently taking too long to find a suitable provider and need the encouragement of the threat of legal proceedings to make their decision. Toby Lewis, the CEO of Sandwell and West Birmingham said that the warnings helped to ensure families get their heads around the ‘responsibility to pay’ for care before making a decision about where relatives should live.
While some campaigners responded with concerns about the quality and availability of care, to Mr Lewis the key issue is getting families to the point where they accept that the responsibility to pay for care will fall to them if after financial assessment they are considered ‘self funding’. What a situation! People that have made savings over their working lives and are of little burden on the State (and probably still paying taxes) are now open targets for name calling, legal action and it’s all their own fault!
In our experience, being informed you are a ‘self funder’ is a key and often very difficult moment for the care recipient and their families. We receive calls from individuals recently informed that their relatives need care in Maidenhead in order to be released from hospital, but with no idea of what is required. In many cases the only assistance offered has been a list from the Local Authority with ours and every other care provider’s contact details …. And a deadline. Furthermore, the social worker will have inevitably said that it’s policy that they’re not allowed to recommend a care provider, despite their obvious experience in dealing with care providers. So that’s really helpful! The family is left to differentiate between providers, with no guidance on how to determine who will be best for their loved one’s needs; They are fearful of the costs; stressed at the responsibility; and equally fearful of the concept of strangers regularly coming into their home and giving personal care.
None of us have had any preparation for this situation. We have been misled to believe the NHS is ‘from the cradle to the grave’, and the pensions industry only encourages retirement savings with pictures of Round the World cruises. Where are the adverts preparing us for possible care provision costs. It’s not helped by a cultural belief that it is our role to ‘pass on’ our savings to our survivors and guilt that we may be eating away at their inheritance.
It’s so clear that we need an urgent and honest discussion to discuss how families are meant to cope with caring for ourselves in old age. Let’s expose the big secret that those in the know, like Mr Lewis, are already expecting us to “get our heads around the responsibility to pay” and are impatient that we haven’t already done so.
Why wouldn’t someone in Government think this is a simple strategy to implement and it is their responsibility to provide thought leadership on? Because that would mean them having to admit the inadequacy of the current arrangements that have gone on for too long? Whatever reasons, it’s time for a change. We need to stop sleep walking into this family crisis and then having our loved ones labelled as bed-blockers.