The future care of thousands of elderly people currently being looked after in their homes is under threat due to what the British Red Cross has termed “dangerous and short-sighted” cuts. It is feared that this may push more elderly people prematurely into full-time residential and nursing homes. The Department of Health have tried to justify the cuts by demonstrating that spending money on preventative measures to keep people healthy (particularly in the area of adult social care) is a better long-term strategy. An additional £7.2 billion will consequently be spent on adult social care up to 2014/15. However, the view from advocates of home care for the elderly maintain that these services are being unfairly marginalized. When any organization experiences financial cuts in resources it needs to ensure that legal compliance and quality of service is not diminished. The elderly care sector is no different, and these cuts may necessitate a review of how services will maintain compliance and quality.
Elderly care remains stretched as the average age of the UK’s population increases. This is not just as British trend, it is a worldwide trend. By 2030, 22% of people in the OECD club of rich countries will be 65 or older, nearly double the share in 1990. These statistics will not come as a surprise to anyone in the health and social care industry as the sector becomes ever increasingly more populated with patients, workers, and regulation. The amount of regulators and inspections has increased in this sector (alongside the increase in the amount of laws regarding caring for the elderly and those lacking capacity) but the amount of financial and human resource committed to this area has not reflected these increases.
The news from Wales this week of the multi-million pound mistaken charging of sick, elderly people for nursing care that they should have had for free is another example of what can happen when a system is put under practical and administrative strain. The NHS has already had to refund £3.6million to patients who were originally told they did not qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding. Another 2,000 cases are yet to be heard. Thousands of pounds will now need to be directed away from patient care to solicitor fees.
While there are no major changes aimed specifically at the elderly health and social care industry within the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the new legislation will create major changes in the funding arrangements for all health and social care providers. With less resources to manage this change, elderly care providers may find themselves vulnerable to making clerical errors or being forced to neglect nursing responsibilities for administrative duties.