As we get older and become unable to look after ourselves independently, we rely on relatives, friends and the state to support us. As time goes on, we will become increasingly dependent on modern technology to enable us to stay in our own homes for longer. Inevitably, this will mean that more carers will be working with elderly people at home.
Given the increasing trend in elderly people being cared for in their own homes, today’s report from the Quality and Human Rights Commission, Home Care for the Elderly, which highlights the inadequacies of the current system , bodes ill for the future unless changes are made. Nearly every day, we hear or read about vulnerable elderly people being treated in ways that would shock us if it happened to a child.
The solution is that the CQC will now regulate these carers, taking action against providers when services fall short. Yet, is this really the solution? We at 2020health have more than a few concerns.
Firstly, the CQC is struggling to cope with its current workload. We know that it cannot inspect every trust or cope with regulating care homes. Some appalling lapses in care have been exposed in organisations that the CQC has given a clean bill of health. The CQC must be supported in changing from a performance management organisation to a fully fledged regulator, with the ability to take away licences when care is not meeting standards.
Secondly, much of the care delivered in people’s own homes is commissioned by local authorities. They have a responsibility to ensure value for money and carry out due diligence when awarding contracts, and the commissioning of a quality service needs to be at the heart of this. The management of contracts must remain their responsibility. They cannot wash their hands of their duties and delegate them to the CQC. We must make sure that commissioners retain local accountability and that those awarding the contracts do not pass accountability over to a central body. If care falls below standards, it is as much the fault of those awarding the contract as those delivering the care.
Finally, let us address the subject of those actually caring for people in their own homes. There are thousands of carers delivering a service over and above what their role demands and we must acknowledge the fantastic job they do. However, there are a number who do not care in the way that we expect. It is time to put the vulnerable elderly person on a par with that other vulnerable group, the very young. Those looking after the elderly need to be on a roll or register where we can track training, employment history, and incidents, and where they demonstrate that they have not met standards and have failed to improve, they should not be allowed to continue carrying out this line of work.
While we protest against bankers’ pay and argue over the rights of protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral, should we not be having a much more heated debate about the provision we make for the elderly? We have a duty to protect the elderly not least because we will be expecting tomorrow’s young to care for us when we are old.