Introducing a requirement for councils to invest in preventative practices and early intervention is a step in the right direction. But it is merely a step. As local authorities cut back on non essential services, the White Paper has failed to address the estimated £1billion shortfall that is leading councils to cut these vital services and leave older people vulnerable in their own homes. To turn the rhetoric into reality, the Government must put measures in place to ensure local authorities act on the White Paper advice and commission services that offer a standard of care to older people in their community that will enable them to live life instead of merely exist.
Some councils are already finding cost effective ways to implement support services without damaging the long term health of their communities but others seem to be making knee jerk decisions based on the pounds they will save in the short term without thought for the huge increases in costs they are storing up for the future.
The services WRVS’ 40,000 volunteers provide – a helping hand, a warm meal, a lift to hospital or a chat over a cup of tea – help older people stay independent in their own homes for longer and ensure they remain connected to their communities. Delivered by volunteers, they are cost effective and save lives as well as money for the taxpayer.
WRVS’ recent report, Ageing Across Europe, produced by Demos, paints a stark picture of growing old in this country. Our older people are proven to be the loneliest, poorest and the most worried that they are discriminated against because of their age, of the countries examined.
But is it all doom and gloom? The whole point of looking at the countries that we did: Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany, as well as the UK, was that these are countries that are in many ways – particularly in terms of wealth – similar to us. So we should be able to learn from the good things that Sweden and the Netherlands are doing (who came first and second on the experience of ageing, compared to our third) and replicate them in this country.
In Sweden, for example, there is a much greater focus on spending money on preventing health problems which get significantly worse later in life, by tackling the issues that cause them. So obesity, which we know can lead to diabetes in later life, is tackled earlier through public health programmes, as is smoking and drinking.
We do a lot of talking about “prevention” in this country, but given that this study shows that in the UK we have the highest prevalence of what is euphemistically called “life limiting illness” amongst older people, surely this is an indication that the public health messages to do with healthy eating and less drinking are not getting through? Or, at least, not as effectively as in those other countries. As David McCullough, WRVS chief executive, commented on the publication of the report – surely it should be a wake-up call for all of us?
So plenty of food for thought for local and central government, but what about for us as individuals? Well one interesting finding from the report, particularly from WRVS’ point of view, is that in Sweden and the Netherlands, there are much higher rates of volunteering. In Sweden - 55% of people volunteer, it’s 50% in the Netherlands , 45% of Germans volunteer and we lag behind at 26%. Separate WRVS research found that older people that volunteer actually improve their sense of wellbeing simply through helping others. People also get a sense of personal satisfaction from seeing their voluntary work is appreciated. Take note voluntary organisations – a pat on the back helps!
It’s common sense really that by giving back to your community, you are not only improving your own sense of worth, but you are also meeting people and staying active and so helping prevent the issues we so often, sadly, see amongst older people whereby they are housebound seeing few people, if any, from day to day. So, by volunteering, you help others but also help yourself. If encouraging more volunteering can help tackle the parlous state of ageing in this country, then that should be the positive that we can take from this shocking report.
Posted by Sarah Farndale, WRVS at 00:00
Wednesday, 06 June 2012.
Prevention is at the heart of how Scotland’s political parties and policy community want to address the current social and economic situation. Instead of cutting frontline services to save money, the Scottish Government has dedicated itself to preventing need arising. This means higher quality of life and lower frontline costs. It is always better to stop someone getting ill than to cure an avoidable illness. While much of the debate about prevention has focused on early years, there is an important case to be made for prevention amongst older people.
Because loneliness is a major cause of ill health for older people the services WRVS provide can help to prevent the early stages of acute illnesses. Stopping older people getting lonely by providing community transport or good quality hot meals delivered daily is one way of preventing dementia. Social clubs and good neighbours schemes keep older people involved in a community and help those people to maintain a higher quality of life.
But one of the roadblocks to prevention is the arrangement of public services. While this is quite technical and not terribly interesting, the impact could be huge. This is because at the moment local authorities pay for prevention. They have responsibility for keeping older people well, independent and in their own homes. But if they spend money doing this, they see none of the savings, which accrue to the NHS as fewer people need to be admitted for costly treatment.
The long awaited consultation on health and social care integration aims to square this circle. It will ensure that the savings made through prevention can be put into further preventative services. This will allow a profound shift in the balance of care.
The basis of the consultation is that:
- Nationally agreed outcomes will be introduced that apply across adult health and social care;
- Statutory partners (including the NHS) will be jointly accountable to Ministers, Local Authority Leaders and the public for delivery of those outcomes;
- Integrated budgets will apply across adult health and social care; and
- The role of clinicians and care professionals will be strengthened, along with engagement of the third and independent sectors, in the commissioning and planning of services.
WRVS hopes that the release of funds to prevention will allow a substantial increase in the scope and reach of preventative services. We’re pleased that there will be strengthened engagement from the third sector. This, however, must ensure that there is a full engagement both in the preparation of plans and sign-off of plans and spending.
The proposal suggests that Community Health Partnerships be replaced with Community Health and Social Care Partnerships, which have budget holding powers and are the joint responsibility of Local Authorities and Health Boards. But the really important outcome of the proposals is the opportunity to unlock resources for prevention. Resources that are currently wasted treating preventable conditions.
WRVS will be working with Scottish Government to improve the proposals over the summer, and we hope that the proposals, when implemented, will prompt a new approach to providing services for older people. That new approach must be one that focuses on quality of life and independence for older people.
Posted by Pete McColl, Public Affairs Manager Scotland at 00:00
Wednesday, 09 May 2012.
quality of life,