By Ann Coffey MP
I have been contacted by more constituents concerned that their relatives are trapped in beds in Stepping Hill because the care they need to support them in the community cannot be provided. An issue I raised last month in my column.
One of the underlying problems is the lack of good quality care homes in Stockport. The last two inspection reports sent to me by the Care Quality Commission which inspects care homes rated one as requiring improvement and the other to be inadequate.
We can’t have elderly, vulnerable people being placed in poor quality care homes, so this reduces the number of available places. Care homes are also facing rising costs and those costs will inevitably be passed on in increased charges for places. If there is no increased government grant to meet those increased charges then there will be less places available.
The consequence of these pressures is that patients cannot be discharged from Stepping Hill because there are no suitable and affordable places in care homes. This causes such distress.
Sometimes patients could go home if there were care available to support relatives, but often there is not.
With winter coming we could be faced with a worsening situation with more elderly people being admitted to hospital with seasonal illnesses and unable to be discharged.
The system is at breaking point.
In the short term, care homes need to improve their standards to increase the number of beds available. And more funding from government.
I think in the long term there is a case for Stockport building and managing new good quality care homes themselves rather than relying on rather unstable and increasingly expensive private provision. I think my constituents would welcome that.
At a time when the health service is under financial pressure, and our attention is drawn to cuts at Stepping Hill, it’s important that we don’t ignore the invisible crisis which is unfolding in adult social care. The sad truth is that vulnerable and elderly people are trapped in hospital beds because there is nowhere to care for them in the community. Care homes, social services and home care agencies are all struggling to cope, due to increasing demand and decreasing resources. Patients can’t be discharged from hospital to inadequate social care and inadequate social care increases admissions to hospitals.
Inadequate social care also increases the pressure on families.
I would like to thank everyone who has taken part in my recent survey about the experience of caring in Stockport.
The number of people with caring responsibilities is growing, with families and neighbours playing a vital role in looking after friends or relatives. Many are caring 52 weeks a year without being able to take a break, isolated at home or trying to juggle their responsibilities at work with their caring role.
Families looking after a loved one with dementia seem particularly stretched. I am full of admiration for the dedicated volunteers I have met, for example in Heaton Moor, where there is a weekly Dementia drop-in for people with dementia and their carers to share experiences and information. However, this kind of support is patchy across Stockport, and relies entirely on volunteers such as Beryl Whitehead.
This summer I have the opportunity to make sure the concerns of carers and those who support carers such as Beryl are heard by the Government. I have provided submissions based on the experiences of my constituents in Stockport to the consultation by the Department of Health on a new Carers Strategy and to the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government inquiry into adult social care offering some practical recommendations to help carers.
Adult social care is at breaking point and there needs to be some radical new thinking on how we can better work with families to use all available resources to offer those at the end of their lives the dignity and respect they deserve.