Let those that really do care help to deliver the changes the sector needs - Tom Page

We should be able to live at home for longer and have more choice over the care we receive, the UK Government recently announced when it set out its vision for adult social care over the next ten years.

Tom Page is managing director of West Park Care
Tom Page is managing director of West Park Care

I wholeheartedly agree with giving people more choice and allowing them to live at home for longer, however there are fundamental issues within the care industry that need a good look at first.

The pandemic has heaped pressure on an already challenged sector. Squeezed an already broken industry into pieces. And the proposal does nothing to address the immediate problems we face like rising demand and staff shortages.

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But in the longer term, the main issue is that we should never forget is that people are always at the heart of any care – not processes, money or spreadsheets. But sadly, there are lots of cowboys running care companies who do it badly and are just in it to make a quick buck.

Several years ago, I went through the rigmarole that many my age are faced with when I had to look for care for my grandfather. I was appalled at the standard of service and poor communication that seemed to be widespread across most providers and decided that I wanted to do it better.

So, I set up my own company, West Park Care, to support clients who want quality care for their nearest and dearest to allow them to live in their own homes. What surprised me about the whole care sector is that it doesn’t take much to stand head and shoulders above the rest – even from those who purport to offer quality care.

And the former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt agrees with me as he recently said the finances of some of the UK’s biggest care providers should be investigated by the competition watchdog.

So I have serious concerns about who the Government lets deliver the reform.

I understand why the Government has made this announcement. For when I set up my home care business three years ago, people had a different attitude to care and most sent their loved ones into homes.

Since the pandemic, however, we are seeing a rise in those who want to stay at, and live out their days, in their own homes. So,the Government is at least acting on this demand.

Since the spotlight has been on care homes over the past 18 months, many now also realise that care in a facility does not necessarily mean 24-hour care. It means two or three five-minute checks and then being left to your own devices. In care homes, once you’re in, you’re in and you live out your days there.

Husbands and wives are often split up and have to live the rest of their lives like that. I know when my grandad eventually went into a care home, he declined very quickly. He would have been much happier if he remained at home.

But there are positives to well-run care homes. Everything is under one roof. Good care home managers can more easily keep on top of issues and there are policies in place to resolve them. As the people they are caring for are on-site, it’s harder to lose sight of what really matters.

If the UK Government wants to reform the sector, it needs to seek advice from the care companies who do it properly. The ones who keep people at the heart of what they do – and that is regardless of whether they run a care home or a home care service.

So, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Review all care providers and let those with a person-centred approach lead the reform. Let those of us who are trying to provide the best care for our parents and grandparents deliver the change.

Tom Page is managing director at West Park Care

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