The desperate politicians will try to scapegoat somebody – now it’s the patients and their families. These families were taught that the Health Service(s) were their safety net: their perverse incentive to leave their relatives in hospital is too great. They were discouraged from self-care and were treated paternally for 3 generations. It will take a large educational programme on TV and Radio to educate the public – once co-payments and rationing in general become overt. At least GPs and the Out of Hours system is not being blamed… This problem was foreseeable and should have been planned for – by politicians. The first past the post political system means they never plan far enough ahead. Not enough nurses, AND you need an advocate..
UNCARING families who could help look after elderly relatives for a short period so they could be discharged from overcrowded hospitals are partly to blame for the record levels of bed-blocking, a senior doctor has said.
Dr Darren Kilroy, deputy medical director at East Cheshire NHS Trust, tweeted earlier this month: “The elephant in the room of frail elderly care: families who could care but don’t want the bother. Families who are ‘too busy’ to visit.”
Kilroy, an A&E consultant, is backed by senior figures in medicine and nursing who say families should take greater responsibility for looking after their frail elderly relatives.
Levels of bed-blocking, otherwise known as delayed discharge, where hospital beds are occupied by patients who do not need medical treatment but are unable to return home because they do not have the necessary support, are at record levels.
Figures for October show that 160,094 hospital bed days were lost in this way compared to 142,927 in October 2014. This is the highest number reported in a month since monthly data was first collected for August 2010.
Kilroy, who was speaking in a personal capacity, told The Sunday Times: “Depressingly often, what we find is that, because everyone is so busy these days, they have got jobs and they are managing their own work-life balance, is that Grandma or Grandad is, to some degree, paddling their own canoe.
“There are family members who could help more but can’t be bothered. Their elderly relatives are left adrift.”
Kilroy said that if relatives were prepared to live with the elderly patient or at least help them in their own homes for a short period, social services could assess the care needed to enable them to continue living at home.
He added: “We tend to invoke the social care system at the drop of a hat without really focusing on the ability of the family to come to the fore and perhaps drop some things that are nice to do but don’t really need to be done in their lives.”Dr Clare Gerada, former chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a GP in London, said that when she was working one recent Easter weekend she was asked to pay home visits to lonely elderly patients by relatives who lived elsewhere.
The patients did not require medical treatment, they were just lonely, she said.
“[The relatives were] essentially wanting me to do their job, which was to check their loved ones were OK but it was actually because of the loneliness. That to me is not the role of the state or the GP.”
Gerada said that while she did not blame families she believed they should take greater responsibility.
“I don’t think it is just relatives’ fault because they, increasingly, live in very small accommodation, have got very stressful lives and are having to work harder and harder. . . but I do think we have to look at some societies where the responsibilities for their elders is theirs not the state’s.”
Dr Peter Carter, a former chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, added: “There are copious examples of families that are absolutely brilliant but I think we could go a long way to [relieving] many of the pressures if we could up family involvement.”
However, Age UK said stretched families should not be asked to do more.
Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director, said: “Families are already taking the strain — with more than 5.4m carers in England currently supporting their family or friends, of whom 1.2m are themselves over 65.
“The greatest solution would be adequate funding from the government in order to provide the best support after a hospital stay.”