Where is the voice for the frail elderly?


The future of Southern Cross and the potential impact on those in their care is very distressing. The company’s business model shows investors at their worst – asset stripping and high-risk contractual agreements (that embarrasses ethical investors) – and the Southern Cross Board must take responsibility for the mess they are in and the resulting uncertainty  for its residents.


Yet the unfolding drama raises some important issues.


Firstly, as a nation we do not yet have a clear enough strategy for caring for the increasing numbers of frail  elderly people. Hopefully this will be rectified with the impending report on the funding of Social Care – it will require a bold and immediate response from government.  A note of caution, we cannot expect the State to pick up the cost. We cannot afford it not because of recession or cuts, but because tax rates would have to sky-rocket to meet the needs of the growing elderly population and proportionally fewer people paying tax.


Secondly, while private companies are criticised and indeed they should be for  poor decision-making, it is of concern that local councils, who tendered out the services, appear not to have applied  due diligence, or put in place sufficient governance arrangements to ensure that the business model was sound.


Finally, the outcry over events at Southern Cross is tepid compared to the angry exchanges seen regarding GP commissioning and the role of Monitor.  In this light it could be construed that the wrangles over health were more about professional self interest, terms and conditions than healthcare itself.  The future shape of social care is in many ways a more important debate, yet it appears that the frail elderly have less of a voice and few professionals speaking up on  their behalf. The quote that we used in our report ‘Take Care’ should be taken to heart:

Gail Beer and Julia Manning



About Julia Manning

Julia is a social pioneer, writer and campaigner. She studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991, later specialising in visual impairment and diabetes. During her career in optometry, she lectured at City University, was a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital and worked with Primary Care Trusts. She ran a domiciliary practice across south London and was a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. Julia formed 20/20Health in 2006. Becoming an expert in digital health solutions, she led on the NHS–USA Veterans’ Health Digital Health Exchange Programme and was co-founder of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Her research interests are now in harnessing digital to improve personal health, and she is a PhD candidate in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) at UCL. She is also dedicated to creating a sustainable Whole School Wellbeing Community model for schools that builds relationships, discovers assets and develops life skills. She is a member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Digital Health Council. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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