Is it just me…?

Editor in Chief, Robert Chamberlain, makes a Remembrance Day reflection on how society holds its older citizens in regard.

I’m sitting here on the 11th day of the 11th month writing my column and reflecting. Remembrance Day is such a wonderful institution. A time when society comes together to remember those who gave their lives during the First World War and in the line of duty thereafter. But this is not the only reason that I describe it as ‘wonderful’.

Having attended the Remembrance Sunday parade in my hometown, I observed the crowds that came to pay their respects. Young and old standing side-by-side, coming together to join in common purpose. Several generations of families bowing their heads for the two minutes’ silence. Grandpa proudly wearing his medals, holding hands with his grandchildren to respect and remember. Strangers shoulder to shoulder regarding each other on this important day. On television, parades across the country are shown and we watch the Queen and Prime Minister lay wreaths.

Failing our forefathers

Through the emotion of the day, something struck me. What a pity that society doesn’t demonstrate this respect and care for our older population every day, whether or not they served their country. The atmosphere of Remembrance Day is almost juxtaposed with how we are allowing our elders to be treated in their later years.

Politicians, past and present, have ignored the importance of investing in a social care system that is fit-for-purpose. The crisis affecting our sector quite obviously results in a dramatic reduction in people’s quality of life. Yet little is being done to recognise the impact or address the issue. It’s quite the reverse.

The atmosphere of Remembrance Day is almost juxtaposed with how we are allowing our elders to be treated in their later years.

The key findings of Age UK’s The health and care of older people in England 2015 are a stark reminder of how we are failing our forefathers:

  • Almost £2bn has been cut from older people’s social care in the last 10 years.
  • The number of people with unmet care needs has increased from 800,000 in 2010 to over a million in 2015.
  • NHS funding has been mostly protected, but has not kept pace with demographic change and growing needs. A £20bn shortfall is expected by 2020.
  • The number of emergency admissions, and readmissions, to hospital are increasing, many of which could be avoided with more community health and social care services. The pattern of demand on primary services has intensified: the number of times an older person visits a GP practice has increased from seven to 13, on average, in just 13 years.
  • Rates of admission for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions such as pneumonia, UTIs and congestive heart failure are rising dramatically.

Unfathomable logic

There is clearly more parliamentary focus on fixing the health service than social care currently, despite the talk of integration. Yet the impact of allowing care providers to crumble has an inevitable knock-on effect. The logic appears unfathomable.

New research from think-tank ResPublica entitled, The Care Collapse: The imminent crisis in residential care and its impact on the NHS could not make it any clearer. It states that within five years residential care homes could lose a staggering 37,000 beds. This means that the NHS would have to find an extra £3bn to care for those patients who are no longer in care and can’t go elsewhere.

Take responsibility

We continue to quietly question the mindset of our Government, but why is there no public uprising to force the necessary action? The very people being disrespected by our failing care system will be the very same people with whom we stood on Remembrance Day, many of them wearing medals. Shouldn’t we, the tax paying and voting public, take some responsibility for allowing this injustice and do more to effect change?

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