The death toll by the end of June from COVID-19 infections and other excess deaths is “likely to approach 59,000 across the entire English population, of which about 34,000 (57%) will have been care home residents”. The estimate, produced by the major healthcare business consultancy LaingBuisson, and reported in The Observer, is based on data from the Office for National Statistics, as well as the analyst’s own modelling of the number of care home resident deaths likely to have occurred in the absence of the pandemic.
The new study coincides with mounting concerns over the failure to protect care homes earlier in the pandemic. Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “I think there’s a real issue that lots of people were denied access to hospital. Things are now getting better, but it just won’t be about how we maintain that position. As the lockdown starts to ease in other parts of society, people would expect it to ease in care homes, and care homes are desperate to be able to get families back in contact with residents, and there are serious risks there."
A Disaster in Waiting
The truth is our social care system has been a disaster in waiting for many years now. In 2018, I asked Martin Green how he would go about transforming the care sector: "The care sector, and residential care in particular, is well positioned to transform from a service which responds to individuals with specific needs, to become the beating heart of local communities. Not only do we need to reimagine our buildings and our services, we must transform our attitudes to health and care, by redefining what we do and how we do it.
I want us to understand that residential care centres can be the place where people's well-being, as well as their physical needs takes centre stage, and where every generation is catered for in a dynamic and creative environment. We have compelling evidence that intergenerational connections improve the lives of every citizen, we need to build on this and see care services as multigenerational spaces, where reciprocity and community connection can flourish.
We are still Citizens with a Great Deal to Contribute
All too often, current services work on the deficit model, which focuses on what people cannot do, rather than champion their abilities and work-life to maximise independence. However old, frail or sick we may be, we are still a citizen with a great deal to contribute. I have seen countless examples of older people acting as advisers and mentors to younger people, helping them to navigate the challenges of life. I want to see care homes nurturing the capacity of all residents and ensuring that this experience is available to all communities.
Currently residential care services tend to train people to do things to residents. In the future, we will have to be enablers and supporters, who do whatever is needed to deliver the best possible experience and a life worth living.
I believe that redefining residential care for a new era will be one of the most exciting and rewarding things that we can possibly do for an ageing society. If we get it right, our services will be an essential part of every community and a valued resource for every citizen.” (Read the full interview here.)
Speaking recently at the AAA ISO Leaders Forum, which debated the need for a new ISO standard for multigenerational neighbourhoods, George Crooks OBE (Chief Executive, Digital Health and Care Institute Scotland) said the current system is not fit for purpose.
Large, Very Expensive, Disease Palaces
According to George, instead of focusing on health and wellbeing within our neighbourhoods and communities, too much is spent on institutionalised, so called, 'healthcare', but ended up delivering what he evocatively called ‘large, very expensive, disease palaces’, more commonly known as hospitals.
George wants to see more integrated care that would enable people to live healthy lives in their own homes and in their own communities. According to George, we need Vertical Integration, integrating hospital and community care in a much more a cohesive way and; Horizontal Integration of healthcare and social care. Drawing on the Scottish experience George believes that an ISO standard for multigenerational neighbourhoods could underpin and energise this whole agenda.
Informed by many years’ experience, working with technology in health and social care, George concluded by warning against getting carried away with technology without adequate planning. While digital tools and services can help and support people to be better connected, he argued that 90% of spend on digital tools and services are not focused on individual citizens but on health and care organisations. Moreover, we are also spending millions of pounds enabling organisations to join up siloed databases. But who is monitoring the big picture, to avoid duplication and wastage?
Clearly, what’s missing is a master plan and proper joined up thinking. This would, as George eloquently put it, allow ‘data to be the oil on the wheels that make communities work’.
You can watch video of George Crooks' presentation at www.agileageing.org. Follow this link to find out what others spoke about. Watch this space, as we continue publishing editorial summaries and videos this week.