The realities of target-led health care practises have created an emotionally barren care system.
Targets and a lack of empathy at the top mean a care worker can register their visit as a success based on just 15 minutes spent in the company of those left alone, a situation which leaves too many people with less companionship and human interaction than would be found in a prison.
The cost of this is seen in our hospitals and on NHS budgets. The solution has to be a prevention is better than cure belief which makes human companionship an integral part of the care system.
The Yorkshire Post has campaigned for action on loneliness and it is not alone in recognising the health implications.
Lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day according to a 2010 study, while another study that year found that a lack of social interactions makes recovery from illness far harder.
The aims of The Yorkshire Post campaign have been to force the region’s Health and Wellbeing Boards to recognise loneliness as a health priority, and to encourage readers to volunteer for supports services and community projects aimed at tackling the issue.
Loneliness is a major concern for those approaching older age and it should be a priority for health decision makers.Laura Alcock-Ferguson, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness
Laura Alcock-Ferguson, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, has made the need for recognition clear.
“Loneliness is a major concern for those approaching older age and it should be a priority for health decision makers ,” she said.
Now it is time for Government to act, and recognise loneliness as a major public health challenge.
The quality of care available is as rapidly becoming a point of shame for councils.
More than one million disabled and elderly people receive care visits across the UK, with many needing help for washing, dressing or eating, the sort of help which if removed or rushed would leave them robbed of their dignity.
But as a result of cost cutting, many local authorities are settling for cheaper 15-minute “flying visits” for people who need fundamental care.
In a union survey last year, 79.1% of respondents reported that their work schedule is arranged in such a way that they either have to rush their work or leave a client early to get to their next visit on time.
And research by the Leonard Cheshire Disability group showed the savings councils think they can make simply do not add up when wider factors are considered.
“In many cases they will end up paying more – in lost tax revenues, increased hospital bills, and more judicial reviews – as a result of reducing the available care,” the charity has made clear.
The next Government must take steps to ban 15-minute care visits.
Elsewhere, there is scope for the Government to review a cap on care costs set to be introduced in 2016. As it stands, elderly people need care will be forced to pay up to £72,000 if your assets exceed £118,000 with your home likely to count towards this.
Last year the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries warned that only 8% of men and 15% of women will benefit.
Councils can also defer the cost of care against your estate, meaning some who have worked hard to leave their children the inheritance they deserve are denied this chance.
A care cap intended to prevent families selling their homes for elderly care looks set to have a limited impact. The next Government has a chance in 2015 to review this funding rule.
IN FULL: OUR YORKSHIRE MANIFESTO...