Posts Tagged ‘Elderly Care’
Was it only last week that we danced to the joys of Spring as we cleaned out the hens? Well, hobbled rather than danced, but you know what I mean. This morning we were back to ‘normal’, by which I mean wet socks and decidedly grumpy dispositions.
Our mood wasn’t helped by screaming headlines about the collapse of A & E services. Have Jeremy Hunt and his fellow halfwits been on Mars for the past few months? Together with others, this site has issued many a warning that as a result of a combination of funding cuts and the collapse of GP and social services, A & E units have gone out of control. Having eventually realised this Mr Hunt has decided to create ‘Urgent Care Boards’. Yet more bureaucracy, yet more inaction!
As those of us who have spent many years working for the NHS have repeatedly stressed what is needed is the addition of a GP to A & E staffing at peak times. Almost one third of the people pouring through our hospital emergency doors are not accident victims, but they do face an emergency due to their inability to get an urgent GP appointment. What is needed is a two-stream hospital system plus a reinstatement if the staffing levels that pertained before the mad Lansley did his worst.
Sadly we are regularly berated by readers when we venture to suggest that all of our emergency care systems are collapsing. Socialist propaganda is the usual response from those who believe that, in some mysterious way, the privatisation of the NHS and social care structures will herald a new Jerusalem. But socialists we are not, Had we been we would have resigned last night when the Labour spokesman on David Bumblebee’s Question Time lectured us on the overwhelming benefits of EU membership, and went on to explain the dangers of allowing an “unenlightened” public to express a view.
What our accusers would prefer not to read is the story of Gloria Foster, aged 81. The frail widow with dementia, was entirely dependent on four daily visits from carers, who fed her, helped her get out of bed and gave her medicine. But for nine days in January she was left to starve to death after an immigration raid on the private care company contracted to look after her. Mrs Foster, from Banstead, Surrey, was discovered starving, dehydrated, covered in bed sores, with a weak pulse and suffering from kidney failure. She was rushed to Epsom hospital where she died.
Imagine the scene in that bedroom. Hunger, thirst, pain and the sense of being forgotten created a re-enactment of hell on earth. Even Dickens never created such poignant and appalling imagery.
Carefirst24 was contracted to provide care to elderly people. Police and the UK Border Agency raided its Surrey offices after allegations that the firm was employing illegal immigrants. It was closed down. But before the raid Border Agency officials held meetings with the local councils to give them time to make alternatve arrangements. Given the parlous state of cash-strapped social services no action was taken.
The result was horrendous. A confused and frightened elderly lady was left to suffer days of torment and suffering, another victim of heartless cuts and an uncaring society. The Crown Prosecution Service has decided that there is no criminal case to answer, and so-called ‘close friends’ of the deceased have protested vehemently. In truth they were clearly not close at all, and the authorities regard another tragic death from neglect as of no great importance.
Call this propaganda if you must, but we codgers take a different view. We feel a great sense of shame at a society which tolerates cruelty on this scale. Every living soul has the right to a dignified and caring end, and if even this is now beyond us the sight of pomp and ceremony of Queen’s speeches and the rest will continue to revolt us.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Surrey police were called in to investigate any possible criminal offences after Surrey County council did not provide alternative care provision for Mrs Foster. Following a thorough investigation officers determined that there was no criminal case to answer”….Police statement 9/5/2013
Albert was singing, as only the tone-deaf can sing, as we cleaned out the hens this morning. It may have been down to two mornings on the trot witout a downpour, but given the words of his croak it was probably related to his latest attempt to bankrupt the bookies. The song goes back a long way but its words seem very relevant to Britian 2012. ‘Money is the root of all evil’ stormed the charts a few decades ago, today it could be our national anthem.
Like the rest of the country we are keyed up about today’s Wimbledon Final. Tom remarked that it is nice to focus on something that isn’t money-driven. Really? If Andy Murray wins today he will pocket £1.5 million in prize money plus an estimated £50 million in sponsorships. Sounds somewhat money-related to me. But at least it will be money honestly earned.
On Tuesday the European Parliament will debate proposals to curb banker’s bonuses. In the eyes of most people the EU achieves little via its endless interference in Britain’s affairs, but this is one issue that merits attention on an international level. But guess who is planning to torpedo any such move. Yes, its our very own Gorgeous George Osborne. Last year bankers pay rose by 12 per cent after a 36 per cent leap in the previous year. And bonuses went off the graph. But our chancellor is determined to use his veto to protect his friends.
No surprise really that he and our dear leader went to great lengths to rule out an independent inquiry into the Barclays Libor fiddling, an internal whitewash with the chance to smear the two Eds is a much safer and attractive option. No surprise either that the Treasury Select Committee now realises that Bob Diamond spun them a tale and wishes to recall him. Of course he spun them a tale, the only surprise is that they didn’t grasp the fact when he was before them.
The reality is that the whole banking culture must be changed and the casino-like investment arm seperated. Osborne can wriggle all he may but nothing short of a total reform will do, for where the banks lead the rest of the financial structure follows. And that embraces a lot of organisations, not least the Inland Revenue. It has been involved in a series of cosy settlements with large companies and now we learn that two of its directors are involved with companies operating tax avoidance schemes.
Do you remember Gordon Gekko, the corporate raider played by Michael Douglas in Wall Street? His motto was “greed is good” and we were glad that people like him only existed in Hollywood make-believe. We were wrong. When Rover closed suddenly in 2005 and 5000 workers were put out on to the streets, four directors shared £4 million. Outrageous, we cried then, but that was small beer, now almost every top executive has a nose in the trough and every major company practices tax avoidance. We all know about Amazon, Vodaphone and the like but even a hero such as Richard Branson has an empire consisting of companies registered in the Channel Isles and British Virgin Islands.
Meantime Sean Connery demands an independent Scotland. Perhaps he will actually come home to pay taxes should it come to pass, but don’t hold your breath. Under Blair and Cameron it has become the established practice of the British establishment not to pay British taxes. According to the protest group 38 Degrees even the chancellor himself has earned the title of the ‘Artful Dodger’.
Small wonder then that we have to reduce our armed forces to their lowest ever levels, to refuse to act on elderly care, to bleed the NHS to its death. Unless everyone pays tax the outgoings will always exceed the incomings.
But there is hope. It is clear that politicians will never willingly tackle the issue of financial privilege and malpractice. But public opinion is on the march. There is a growing national demand for a new morality, a recognition that the new infatuation with wealth will bring us all down.
That old song was right. Almost everything that is failing and wrong in our society has money at its roots!
THE ENEMY WITHIN!
A British jihadist who fought with Al Qaeda was arrested yesterday after going through the Olympic Park five times. He was under a control order not to enter any Olympic zone, but still travelled through the main games area in Stratford, East London five times in a single day before being spotted. According to a Home office lawyer the man known only as CF wishes to “re-engage in terorism-related activities, either in the UK or Somalia”, and is “determined to continue to adhere to his Islamist extremist agenda”.
Because he is a Britsh citizen he has been free to leave the country to fight alongside Al Qaeda and free to return at his pleasure. His human rights dictate that he is not unduly harrassed.
And he is far from the only one causing MI5 nightmares as the games draw near. A Home Secretary with guts would lock the whole lot up and throw away the key. Better still put them on a plane to the places they profess to love and make it a one-way ticket.
The response to that will be that we are a tolerant society. Should an atrocity occur ministers may find that we are not quite as tolerant as they fondly imagine!
Not too many tears for Bob Diamond on the allotments this morning. Perhaps it was the news that he may receive up to £30 million by way of compensation that niggled. Perhaps it was the fact that a number of our gang are Barclays customers receiving near fanny-adams in interest. But in any case the chat at our tea-break was about a friend who died last week. It has to be said that long before he breathed his last, he suffered a fate worse than death. Because he required periodic medical care he was trapped inside a busy hospital. Noise, constant change of faces, emergency teams racing past – not the way you hope to end your days is it?
In his case it has to be said that the nursing care was excellent. But given the reductions in staffing levels our friend felt guilty at asking for help from overworked ward staff.
I mention this because today the Nuffield Trust and the IMF have published a financial appraisal of the NHS. Their forecast is that the service will suffer austerity for at least a decade, whilst the number of patients will continue to rocket. Right now income from the government is frozen and a cost reduction of £20 billion has been imposed. In most cases this can only be achieved by reducing the number of employees, 80% of whom are clinical. And the report suggests that things will worsen!
Of course times are hard and doctors and nurses cannot be entirely sheltered. But we cannot go on expecting them to provide the kind of service we have all enjoyed for many years. Solution? Andrew Lansley talks about closing wards, or even hospitals, and moving services into the community to be provided by GPs. It is absolute nonsense, as any GP will tell you. First we expect our family doctors to take over commissioning, now they are to be surgeons too. And even if that were possible most would need new premises with hospital style equipment. And beds presumably.
The nightmare is that we have in charge of the a vital service a man who at first seemed a rather vague academic, but has emerged as Benny of Crossroads. With things reaching breaking point he is pursuing reforms which at best will simply further complicate an already complicated structure. Were he to ask, any front-line NHS consultant could give him the answer, the only answer.
It is to take away from hospitals the care of older people with long-term medical conditions. That number will continue to climb dramatically as we live longer. We can leave out of this those patients whose needs can be met by a nursing home. The reason so many elderly patient spend weeks, or even months, on wards is their need for checks and treatment orders from consultants. It is not unusual for a patient to occupy a bed for eight weeks simply because they need a weekly progress analysis from a specialist. Of course they also receive nursing care but that does not need to be in an acute hospital.
I was part of a team that proposed, to the then Health Minister, consultant-led teams working in the community. All patients whose domiciles were considered suitable would be visited by him or her as regualarly as necessary and teams of community nurses would visit continually. Carers would be added to the ‘package’ if relevant. Mobile equipment would be owned and managed by the district team.
The total cost per patient was estimated at around one-sixth of maintaining the patient in hospital, and the experience of the patient would be a zillion times more relaxing and curative. GPs were the first to agree that such a plan would require specialists, should a general practitioner undertake such a role he or she would be constantly forced to send people back to hospital, which is exactly what happens now in the case of nursing homes.
Care of the elderly is the NHS’s major problem. Other patients tend to be in hospital for specific treatments and there is nothing to be gained by moving them elsewhere, not least because the vast majority are short-stay.
But instead of focussing in on the real issue Benny is off with the fairies. And now that his boss is totally occupied with saving his own skin, he will feel free to install his reforms which few understand and no one, apart from the private sector, supports!
INFAMOUS QUOTES; ”If it weren’t for speed bumps, pickpockets and frisking at airports, I’d have no sex life at all”…..Rodney Dangerfield “On my 85th birthday I felt like a 20-year old. But there wasn’t one around”…..Milton Berle “I can still enjoy sex at 75. I live at 76, so its no distance”…..Bob Monkhouse “If your baby is beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on schedule and burps on time – you’re the grandma”….Theresa Bloomingdale “I had dinner with my father last night, and made a classic Freudian slip. I meant to say, “Please pass the salt”, but it cam out , “You prick, you ruined my childhood”…..Jonathan Katz “Having children gives your life a purpose. right now mine is to get some sleep”……Reno Goodale
With a number of us in our eighties, it is no surprise that we codgers wince each time we read of appalling examples of the standard of care provided by Lansley’s beloved private sector. As if to counter that impression Bupa, the largest provider, has recently been running a huge national advertising campaign portraying life in a Bupa care home as the next best thing to lodging with Donald Trump. It has also linked in to a campaign urging everyone to take out private healthcare insurance as, to quote the ads, the NHS waiting lists lengthen.
On various occasions we have mulled this over after sorting out the hens. We invariably concluded that we cannot afford insurance, and must accept our fate now that Clegg and his lapdogs have nodded the NHS reforms through. But we usually concluded that, if we had the means, Bupa would be our choice, it after all is usually held up by Lansley as an example of what competition can provide. How wrong we were!
Yesterday Judge Mark Brown rounded on Bupa after a jury at Liverpool Crown Court convicted the manager of the Dalton Unit of Stonedale Lodge in Croxteth, Karen Southern, of wilful neglect. The Judge told her : “Bupa hold themselves out as being the leading UK providers of dementia care…yet the nursing home was run very badly and there was a great deal of cost-cutting. There were often inadequate staffing levels, the unit itself was filthy, and the premises were in a tired and dilapidated state”. The court heard how Southern was under “great pressure” to maximise profits. There was, the Judge said, a financial interest to fill beds yet keep costs down and added that: “The public will be appalled to hear the way that Joyce Farrow, 90, was looked after at this Bupa home”.
Earlier the court had heard of an appalling regime in which the elderly lady was left unsupervised to such an extent that she tumbled out of bed and crawled naked along the floors. Staff failed to keep her clean and she was often left hungry and thirsty. The pensioner endured two months of torment before being transferred to an NHS hospital. But it was too late and she died a few days later.
We take no pleasure in using this case to support our repeated attacks on Lansley’s bill which will, without a shadow of a doubt, bring private companies such as Bupa into the NHS. But it illustrates vividly what can happen when profit is more important than patient care. Minimum wages are paid as a result of which the ratio of unskilled to skilled is far below NHS guidelines, and the number of staff is kept to an absolute minimum.
There is one consolation. By the time of the next election the standard of NHS performance will have sunk to an all-time low and, for the first time, the public will have its chance to pass a verdict on politicians who, without any mandate, destroyed the service that for so long has meant so much to so many!
WHAT PEOPLE SAID ABOUT HOBBIES; “They called me a fatalist , but I’d never collected a postage stamp in my life!”…..Yogi Berra ”My only hobby is laziness which naturally rules out all the others”…..Granni Nazzano “I’ve got a big scab on my leg. I’ll save it until tonight when I’m in bed”……Victoria Wood “All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral or fattening”……Alexander Woollcott “The trouble with incest as a hobby is that it gets you involved with relatives”…… George S Kaufman “Incest – the game the whole family can play”…..James Agate “No hobbies. There is not enough time to do all the nothing we want to do”…….Bill Watterson “It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work”…….Jerome K Jerome
Bright warm sunshine. Am I dreaming this or is it real? I had almost forgotten what my fellow hen-keepers looked like without their eskimo outfits, sadly I cannot report a dramatic change for the better. Michael Foot once remarked that old age is not all it’s cracked up to be and, on that at least, his words earn the approval of us all. And old age looms large in the story I would like to tell today, a story that shames us all.
Before I come to that it seems appropriate to draw a contrast, on the grounds that if one complains that someone is badly treated it triggers the question of compared to who. My contrast focuses on the 500 entrepeneurs and businessmen who have published a letter in the Daily Telegraph – where else. They are urging the Chancellor to scrap the 50 per ent tax rate. Their argument is, on the face of it, perfectly reasonable. They work their socks off, succeed where others haven’t even ventured, and then lose cash in extra tax. They are, it seems, utterly demoralised.
But the story concerns people who have far more reason to be demoralised. Today’s Guardian devotes a whole page to the plight of 88 year old Mary, who lives in Cornwall. Mary is deaf and partially blind and lives alone, having attended the funerals of most of her friends and relatives. She is old and “dreadfully vulnerable”. Mary reports that she can’t see or hear, so “it’s not safe to go outside my flat”. Inside her flat she can’t listen to the radio or watch TV, and struggles to read. Mary is “lonely and isolated”, and is “very scared” about the future.
Mary is not entitled to benefits and has to arrange, and pay for, such help as she can get. She pays a regular £40 for two hours of home-help from agency workers, but is obliged to book and interview them, a difficult task for someone who is deaf and almost blind. And she has had a poor experience with workers she has managed to book. One admitted leaving dirty washing in the sink on the grounds that Mary, being blind, wouldn’t worry about the sight anyway. Just getting through each day is a major struggle and loneliness is a poor companion.
Mary’s situation, bleak as it is, is far from unusual. Older women are disproportionately represented in the 2 million people aged over 65 in England today with care-related needs. They are even more over-represented in the nearly 800,000 older people who get no support and cannot afford a care home, even if they were prepared to abandon their treasured independence. We all know that on average men die younger than women and the result is that almost 80 per cent of women aged over 85 live alone, compared with 43 per cent of men.
Michelle Mitchell, director of Age UK, sums it up. “They are isolated in their own homes, without basic support to help with washing, going to the toilet, shopping and cleaning, let alone getting out and having fulfilling and dignified lives”, she confirms. This generation of women did not benefit from feminism and after a lifetime of caring for others, women in their 80s and 90s are being let down.
We all know that times are hard, we may not know that spending on older people’s care has been cut by almost 5% this year. When increasing needs are factored in, the shortfall for this year alone is £500 million. And even if this were not so, people like Mary would still receive no help. A study commissioned by the government into elderly care is under way but help for people like Mary is, at best, a long way off.
Every day we hear of the real priorities as seen by government, with the hugely expensive high-speed rail at the top of the list. We also hear a good deal about the tax-avoidance industry which robs the exchequer of zillions. Now we read of the demoralisation of our top businessmen because they cannot afford a second pony for their paddocks.
Yes, they at least have a case. But if today they read the story of Mary, they may decide that her need is greater than theirs.
THINGS PEOPLE SAID ABOUT SPORT; “For me the worst part of playing golf is hitting the ball”…..Dave Barry “Golf is s good walk spoiled”……Mark Twain “The worst thing I ever said to a tennis umpire was ‘Are you sure?’ “…..Rod Laver “Fishing is a jerk on one end of the line waiting for a jerk on the other end”…..Michael Palin “And so for the moment the Great Britain ladies hockey team is down to ten men”……David Harris, BBC “Working your triangles in your threes and fours”……Gerry Armstrong, Sky Sports 2 “To me boxing is like ballet, except there’s no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other”…..Murray Walker “Cornering is like bringing a woman to a climax”…….Jackie Stewart