Social care reform; the case for a more humane system – Bernard Ingham

THIS column comes to you with feeling. I write as a prime candidate for admission to an old folks’ home and dread the thought of it.

Is the Government doing enough to support dementia sufferers and their families?

This is not because I know of any family, friends or neighbours with bad experiences of institutional life.

My late wife spent her last fortnight in a care home but she was the only 
one of my immediate family, including 
my grandparents, to be admitted to 
one.

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In fact, I described visiting the care home of my old neighbour, a Dunkirk veteran who lived to be 100, like entering Buckingham Palace.

How should social care be funded? Sir Bernard Ingham poses the question as pressure grows on the Government to act.

It was also evident from what he said and the demeanor of his fellow guests that they had regal attention and service.

In his 100th year they invited me to join him on an expedition to watch Crystal Palace play Arsenal.

Between us we had 110 years’ unbroken support for the club. I doubted whether his care home would ever figure in the occasional reports of maltreatment of the vulnerable elderly.

Social care has been in the spotlight after Boris Johnson's former aide Dominic Cummings gave evidence to the House of Commons over Covid.

So, what am I worried about?

Quite simply, the implications of selling my home.

It would mean not just that I was losing my relative independence, thanks to carers, but that it was my only option since I would require the 24-hour care beyond my working family.

Like millions of others, I have lived with this thought throughout a pandemic that portrayed care homes at times as a killing field for the elderly.

How should social care be funded? Sir Bernard Ingham poses the question as pressure grows on the Government to act.

The problem now is how to restore confidence in the care service.

This is likely to be more complicated than making sure supplies of PPE and an effective test and trace system are available next time a virus strikes.

Dominic Cummings, the PM’s vindictive former chief adviser, has done nothing to clarify the way forward.

It certainly seems that the elderly 
were discharged from hospitals to 
care homes without testing, but this 
may have been the result of failure – or even panic – about the ability of the NHS to cope rather than set Government policy.

I find it incredible that any democratic government would discharge the vulnerable without testing as a matter of policy.

But what we old fogeys don’t want is recrimination from politicians currently investigating the handling of the pandemic or next year’s full public inquiry.

What is required is a credible plan for protecting the public and not least those most likely to be carried off by a pandemic. All lives matter.

This is where the Government, select committees and official inquiries will come up against the system as it has developed over the years.

The care of the elderly has effectively been privatised. Dental care is now rapidly going the same way to join ophthalmology and physiotherapy.

How far the current difficulties in securing face-to-face GP appointments are the result of effectively making each practice a commercial entity is also for investigation.

Is it blowing the concept of public service out of the window?

All this is as clear as mud.

The pandemic will therefore have served a useful purpose if it forces government to overhaul the NHS so that the care of the elderly and vulnerable is properly integrated with fully functioning medical services with face-to-face attention.

We can’t have old folks’ homes used as dumping grounds and in the process generating private profit until the inmates perish.

I am not necessarily advocating re-nationalisation of all health services. But there is a widespread feeling that the system, especially in relation to the elderly, is unfair.

You can work, save and pay taxes all your life but when you cannot look after yourself you will have to pay someone to do so until your assets, including your home, amount to little more than £23,000.

In the process, you will subsidise those who have been feckless as well as the unfortunate.

I consider that the prime reason for saving and investing is to provide for 
your old age rather than to enrich your family, however much you would like to do so.

But I do recognise the undercurrent of unrest, especially when so many elderly people in homes have died during the pandemic.

That will be compounded if other medical services command a fee on top of taxation.

Given the ageing population, is the only solution for us to pay more taxes?

Or should we all have to take out insurance, including those on benefits, to cover care in old age?

I would like to think that before I pop my clogs we have a more humane system in place.

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