Aside from Brexit one of the big challenges facing our government today is integrating health and social care and designing the right elderly care system for the way we live today. With a (thankfully) ageing population it is clear that we need to offer better support for elderly people who are often living alone for many years with increasingly complex health needs such as dementia.
Last week I led the Public Accounts Committee enquiry into progress being made by the Department of Health to better integrate health and social care. There have been a number of different pilot models across the country and many of them have showed the benefits of collaborative working to reduce the number of people visiting A&E; by increasing access to GP services or by offering better at home, or care packages for people who are leaving hospital. The enquiry showed that innovation in terms of joint working and use of technology can both improve services and outcomes for patients however breaking down the cultural and organisational barriers between the NHS and other public sector groups such as Councils remains a significant challenge.
Another considerable challenge is finding enough staff to work within care homes or in home visit services. Currently the turnover of staff in care homes is very high at 34% which can be very challenging for those using and managing these services. This is being worked on, and in December 2017 the Department of Health and Social Care began consulting on a new strategy for the care and health workforce. The Government has also promised a Green Paper by November on the future funding of adult social care for older adults. Current funding via ring fenced council tax and private funding will not be sufficient to meet the future demand.
To prepare for the session I went to visit care homes in the constituency to talk to staff and understand some of the pressures they face and how they manage to attract and retain good people to work in the sector. Dovecote View in Westhampnett is a great example of wonderful local care. The rooms are lovely and all residents have access to a lovely garden and patio area. To attract and retain staff the team at Dovecote ask care workers which hours suit them to work and try to provide as much flexibility as possible so employees can fit the role around family or other caring responsibilities. They also offer permanent contracts not zero hour contracts which makes sense to me as people need both flexibility and security in their jobs. There is no doubt that care workers find the job very rewarding but more needs to be done to build the esteem and recognition of this role which will be vital to many of us as we grow older.