Exporting Care

Location, Location, Location

Yesterday I read this article in the Guardian. It reports that in Germany there is an increase in Germans being placed in residential, retirement and rehabilitation units in eastern Europe where the costs are lower.

As the article says

Germany’s chronic care crisis – the care industry suffers from lack of workers and soaring costs – has for years been mitigated by eastern Europeans migrating to Germany in growing numbers to care for the country’s elderly.

But the transfer of old people to eastern Europe is being seen as a new and desperate departure, indicating that even with imported, cheaper workers, the system is unworkable.

But before we are too quick to castigate Germany, I think it’s important that we look at what happens in this country.

Until one month ago, I was a local authority employed social worker, seconded into an NHS Trust (as I was a mental health social worker) working predominantly with older people. I made a lot of residential and nursing placements. I worked in an inner London borough.

The amount of local placements we had came nowhere near meeting the needs of the local community. Yes, there has been a push towards caring for people longer at home – perhaps it was a feature of central London, perhaps not,  but many of the people I worked with did not have family around them. The cost of housing had pretty much seen to that in terms of ripping communities apart.

Still, there are pockets of close communities even amid the high towers of the financial centres of London. Among the office blocks and fancy shopping streets, there are communities that have evolved over the decades, centuries even and those tourist spots visitors see, they are ‘home’ to many people who might not wear the smartest suits or have the fanciest accessories.

We ‘converted’ some of the residential provision locally into ‘extra care sheltered’ provision – see, that would be good, that would ‘keep people at home’ for longer.

So where are we now?

The chances of getting a placement in the local area are very slim to zero. We had waiting lists months long for some of the residential provisions in the area. The wonderful ‘extra care sheltered’ housing provision realised soon that they could not manage the needs of those who needed 24 hour residential support or maybe the criteria for residential care moved higher but they have not truly become an alternative for someone who needs a residential placement. They have become a safer environment with a constant ‘warden’ for those who may otherwise have had sheltered accommodation.

So there are fewer residential and nursing placements for people who are local to the area. If a family shouts and hollers enough they may get someone on the ‘waiting list’ for a place. Who knows when that place will come up. We don’t like saying it explicitly  but places in residential and nursing homes usually come up for one reason and that’s a death or a deterioration in physical health and noone wants to think about that.

What does a local authority do then?

It moves people out. It is more likely to move out people who have no family support and no ‘links’ to the area. You see, living somewhere for 70+ years isn’t seen as ‘link’ enough if your family and friends aren’t there. Anyway, even if they don’t want to move you out, if there are no beds, there are no beds.

So while we aren’t moving people to other countries, that’s only really by virtue of us being an island. We aren’t that much better than Germany in this respect. We are moving people to unfamiliar settings and localities on the basis of cost alone.

Commissioning Quality

How are these decisions made? Well, to absolve myself from responsibility, I’ll say it wasn’t my decision. I did and do rage against it. I raised it internally as the ways these decisions are made are purely on the basis of finances of local authorities to make placements.

Currently, in inner London we are placing frequently in outer London but soon it will be the Home Counties and further and further away from familiarity. I wonder how consistent this is with the Mental Capacity Act which demands previous preferences are taken into account. This can be ridden over roughshod if there aren’t any local placements at the right cost.

So we move to commissioning. There has been a race to the bottom in terms of providing services and placements at the lowest cost. Property is a massive cost in central London so cheaper land can push down general cost but at what price to autonomy and preference?

There has to be a way for commissioners to be accountable for the decisions they make. Families can push and make complaints on behalf of those who are not able to make decisions for themselves but there really needs to be, in my opinion, some external scrutiny of commissioning decisions made by people who really understand the social care sector. Yes, councillors can scrutinise but how many understand the needs of those who are not pounding on their doors making complaints about council services? Who understands that those who have the quietest voices or who have noone to advocate for them may be having their rights ripped away from them?

I’m not sure of the answers. All I know is that I wish the commissioners would have listened to their social workers. I wish there were a stronger, formal system of advocacy which would raise these issues with people who commission services and I wish there were an understanding in central government of the impact that geography makes on the cost of social care.

There may be cheaper and more available placements in South Yorkshire but that doesn’t mean the answer is placing Londoners there. I fear it may well be in the future.

We can’t become too complacent. Germany today may well be Britain tomorrow.

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Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Over the course of the past months, who could help but feel a plethora of emotion as the horrors of Winterbourne View have unfolded before our very eyes: Absolute disgust that an organisation could get to the point where such blatant institutional abuse becomes a part of daily life, anger at the systems in which we work as they are revealed as insufficient to protect the most vulnerable in our society or perhaps a heart-wrenching empathy towards the vulnerable and a passion that things have to change and something done… but what?

It will hopefully have challenged us all as a professionals.  Is it just possible that as we go about our business there is a very real danger of becoming complecent unless we keep on out toes and remain true to our professional standards and ethical practices?  I’ve been reminded how very important the role of those who commission services and the need for greater accountability when choosing services for individuals who can’t choose for themselves.   Are we pressured into choosing the cheaper option even when we know in our heart that it isn’t the most suitable?  Do we sigh a sigh of relief and accept without question when we find a service that will accommodate the individual with particularly challenging behaviour knowing that the option will be limited? Do unrealistic case-load sizes prevent us from spending time to think outside of the box and identify the very best service and then think how it might be achieved? Do we have a professional relationship with providers when a less formal relationship can be so much easier? If we become too familiar those so important boundaries can become distorted and increase the risk of poor practice or even abuse going unnoticed or being excused.

I started my social care career working in a residential home for children with autism and it must be said that in my experience the majority of carers are decent caring people who go the extra mile.  Most don’t get paid heaps, have to work shifts but still turn up at work asking how they can make the next 8 hours the best they possibly can for those they have come to work for.  However, there are some for whom that isn’t the case and over the past couple of weeks we have seen 11 photos that will probably remain imprinted on our minds long after the media frenzy has died down.

I’d really like to hear how recent events have perhaps challenged you as a health or social care worker as you strive to help deliver the very best services to those who need them. I also look forwards to hearing how the Department of Health is going to drive service commissioning, delivery and safeguarding forwards.  What is agreed upon is that there needs to be a radical overhaul of social care; what doesn’t see so clear is what that will look like.

 

A Culture of Care?

I can’t help it but I’m somewhat unimpressed and uninspired by claims that Castlebeck’s transformation is nearly complete (As reported by The Guardian).  I’m sure Mr Sullivan has done a sterling job in dragging the remains of homes such as Winterbourne View towards acceptable standards but the very fact that such poor standards of care are evident in contemporary care is a shameful indictment on our society.

It riles me not only that such abuse took place in the first instance, but that it wasn’t picked up by the care provider.  Would the abuse still be happening if it were down to Castlebeck to identify it and take action?  I shudder to think that the answer might be a resounding “Yes”.  Also to think what else may be happening within care homes across the UK where vulnerable adults don’t have the benefit of family involvement or carers with the insight to blow the whistle on abuse … or Panorama!

 Having worked with numerous residential and nursing homes, it is not hard to see how totally dependant some vulnerable members of our society are on those paid to provide good quality care:  Care that is monitored and regulated and where safeguarding policies are in place to ensure that those who can’t speak up for themselves are protected from abuse… Really?

I can’t help but recalling one particular home, the manager was sitting in a very well equipped, spacious office when I arrived congratulating herself at the marvel that were her new, glossy brochures. Showing prospective families just exactly how decent the home was with its ample garden blooming with flowers and general good cheer.  Carers smiled on the front cover in a manner that exuded quality, person-centred care from more carers than one could possibly need whilst care-free residents tucked into their gormet meals.

Sadly, the reality was very different:  Insufficiently trained carers that didn’t have the time to answer a call-bell that had been rung for the umpteenth time as the room’s occupant continued to lie in urine soaked sheets.  Then there was the missed opportunity after missed opportunity to spot pressure wounds that were silently getting progressively worse – out of sight, out of mind.  All the time, the owner continued to congratulate herself and confidently sell the homes’ services to prospective new residents and their families.  Oblivious to the reality that was unravelling the other side of her plush office door.

Of course, such business’ need to be well run but when business comes before quality of care something needs to change.  Whole cultures need to change because if the underlying ethos of a home’s manager is developing a thriving business, how can the ethos of carers within that home be anything different … such as caring perhaps.  Whilst I’m all for serious case reviews and learning from past mistakes, I’m not convinced my ministers’ exclamations that, “We must learn from this so that these things must never happen again!”   I fear that they will happen again … and again until the whole culture of care changes to one of … well, care.

I can recall perhaps just a handful of small care homes where the managers rota themselves on shift so they know what’s going on and can identify any training needs.  Where more money is spent on care than on prtraying a good image to prospective new residents.  They may not be glistening with a new coat of paint every 6 months or benefit from TV advertising but they are run with an underlying ethos of care and respect and reflect far more the brochures that are displayed elsewhere, but they don’t have their own glossy brochures.  All they have is a good reputation which gets them by more than adequately.

‘Reclaiming’ Care Home Fees

A deathly silence has descended upon us!  Call me sceptical but I couldn’t help noticing that it started around the 30th September 2012.  Claims companies that were once assisting the good people of this fair land to ‘claim back’ (almost as if they were referring to a benefit that had not been claimed by the masses) care home fees that they had incurred for themselves or a family member fell silent.

So why has it all gone quiet?

Until recently, individuals and family members have been able to make retrospective claims (backdate their claim) if it was identified that they or a family member were paying for all or some of their care when in fact they should have been receiving full funding to pay for it.   There then was a decision to place a deadline on retrospective claims which is why there has recently been an influx of ‘helpful’ organisations desperate to assist you.  In return for their kind assistance they would take a percentage of your successful claim.  However, one of the deadlines for making retrospective claims that could date back several years has now passed and there remains a less modest time-frame within which claims can be back-dated.

For cases during the period 1st April 2011 – 31st March 2012 the deadline for individuals or their families and representatives to notify the relevant Primary Care Trust will be 31st March 2013.

The truth of the matter is, not everyone who has paid care home fees is entitled to claim a refund.  They were of course referring to Continuing Healthcare funding which is the NHS funding stream that enables some people to have their care home fees refunded or not pay them in the first place if that person meets the eligibility criteria for Continuing Healthcare funding.  Throughout this article I am using the example of a care home but the same information applies to all care such as nursing homes, live-in carers and care agencies visiting someone in their own home.

Why do some have to pay for care home fees and others not?

Care homes charge a weekly fee to cover the cost of such expenses as accommodation and care.  This can range from a few hundred pounds to several thousands of pounds depending upon the care provider and the necessary skills required by the home and carers.  Anyone who is in need of such care is entitled to a community care assessment from the local adult social service department.  If, following this assessment the individual is eligible for help from social services they will then receive a financial assessment.  This has been common practice for a number of years and beyond the scope of this article to discuss in any depth. If an individual has assets (such as savings or a property not being lived in) just over £23000 then they will be required to pay 100% of their care (in this case the care home fees).  If they have less than this amount, they pay variable contributions towards the care home fees and the local authority pay the remainder.  Local authorities usually have funding thresholds which are a maximum they will pay for a care home so won’t automatically pay thousands of pounds each week if the same care is available within their funding limits.

Can I avoid paying care home fees?

This is where Continuing Healthcare funding comes into the equation: Continuing Healthcare or CHC as it is usually referred to is the NHS funding stream used to pay for care fees is someone’s needs are predominantly health related.  Because it is the NHS, unlike social service funding (see section above) CHC funding isn’t means tested and you don’t pay a contribution towards your care home fees.  In practical terms, receiving CHC funding rather than social services funding could be the difference between having to sell your home to pay for care home fees and keeping it!  It is worth reiterating though that not everyone in a care home is entitled for CHC funding.

How do I see if I’m eligible for CHC funding?

The CHC assessment process is detailed within 2 documents; they are national documents so it shouldn’t matter where in the country you live.  I say that with slight apprehension because in reality any assessment that involves human intervention is not always 100% objective all of the time.  If you would like more information, the documents are:

Eligibility for CHC funding starts with the completion of a checklist.  This will be considered when an individual is discharged from hospital for instance or can be requested at any time.  Professional including G.P.’s, social workers, district nurses & occupational therapists might also complete a checklist.  Individuals or family members can also ask for a checklist to be completed.  The threshold for the checklist is set lower than the eligibility threshold to ensure that everyone who may be eligible for CHC funding is considered.

If the checklist has a positive outcome (high enough scores) the full consideration for CHC funding is undertaken in the form of a decision support tool (DST).  A DST isn’t an assessment itself but a tool to help professionals collect all the relevant information such as assessments in order to reach a conclusion as to whether someone is eligible for CHC funding.

How is a decision about CHC funding made?

If someone has a rapidly deteriorating health condition, a G.P. or health professional can ‘fast-track’ a CHC application and avoid an unnecessary assessment; the funding should be agreed by the local Primary Care Trust without question and immediately. Your local Primary Care Trust or PCT is the agency responsible for administering NHS services such as CHC funding at a local level.

If a DST has been completed, the professionals involved will look at the tool and make a decision based on the following characteristics:

Nature –   This describes the particular characteristics of an individual’s needs (which can include physical, mental health or psychological needs) and the type of those needs. It also describes the quality of care required to meet those needs.

Intensity – This relates both to the quality and severity of the need and the support required to meet them, including the need for ongoing care.

Complexity – This is concerned with how the needs present and interact to increase the skills required of the carers.

Unpredictability – This describes the degree to which needs fluctuate and thereby create challenges in managing them.

As you can see, the process isn’t an exact science and can’t be determined by a series of tick boxes.  The determining factor is whether the care required is predominantly health related than social care.  A local authority is not permitted to provide or pay for health care which is why health funding such as CHC exists.

Rethinking Care Funding

An interesting headline in the Independent caught my attention  this morning.

‘Affordable old age – U-turn on money for elderly care’

So the  story develops, in the Independent, along with other papers that the government (via a ‘senior sources within both coalition parties) that the Dilnot proposals to fund adult (note – adult, not ‘elderly’) social care in England.

Dilnot’s ‘headline’ proposal was that there should be a cap on the limit of personal liability for the cost of care fees and this development suggests that that limit may well be set at £35000.

The article explains

A Whitehall source said: “They’ve come to the conclusion they’d be mad not to do it. It’s all about the legacy. It means both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats can turn round in 2015 and say: ‘We sorted out social care. Because of what we did no one will have to lose their homes to pay for nursing home care any more.’ That’s a pretty big achievement – and would appeal to both sets of voters.”

Now this narrative of ‘losing homes to pay for nursing care’ is a basically incredibly simplistic for a start as it doesn’t really take into account the conditions that currently exist about when that may or may not happen. It does, however, grasp on the ‘tabloid narrative’ of the terror of the home owning generation that they might actually have to use some of their assets to pay for the high cost of care.

You see, I have a problem with Dilnot and care caps while seeing it is politically pleasant. Care has a significant cost.  Caps are good politically but there will need to be significant investment of money and the ‘cap’ is solely in terms of ‘care costs’ and wouldn’t cover the ‘hotel costs’ of residential care.

Protecting inheritances though, fits well into the coalition narrative and without doubt, there’s a need for the basis of social care funding to be rationalised. I hope the coalition move beyond the ‘selling homes to pay for care’ narrative that’s overplayed and under-understood.

See, the other interesting little tidbit of information in this report from the Independent is that

The Treasury is expected to argue that the plan should be paid for out of the general NHS budget. But that could create problems for Mr Cameron, as Labour could argue that funding care was robbing hospitals and frontline services of cash.

This will add significant pressure on the NHS – however it does potentially free up the local authorities from some funding responsibilities that they already have. This remains a worry. What I need to see to be satisfied with this proposal is detail about where and how the money is going to be made up when the cap is in place.

A move on Dilnot though (which is about more than caps – believe it or not and you wouldn’t necessarily if you just read the headlines) would be a definite positive so I’m not knocking it.

I just wonder about headlines that talk about ‘affordable old age’ – affordable to whom? Sometimes affordability comes at a cost. I want us to achieve quality care for all those who need social care input and it will cost. It’s a matter to consider where the burden of that cost will lie. As long as the money is extracted from a stretched NHS budget without further injections of cash, I can’t be as overjoyed as I would like to be about this u-turn.

I’ll retain my sliver of cynicism until we have more details.

Winterbourne View – The Serious Case Review

Yesterday the Serious Case Review written by Margaret Flynn about Winterbourne View Hospital was published. It catalogues the series of circumstances which led to those scenes seen on BBC’s Panorama programme and it makes important and salutary lessons for everyone involved in health and social care.

It is a well-written, detailed report which catalogues a series of holes in the process of provisioning, commissioning, managing and monitoring a long stay hospital for people with learning disabilities but the most important lessons can easily be extrapolated out to many other areas of residential, nursing and long stay hospital care.

In summarising my own reading of the report, I have added some of my own thoughts as I go but I do recommend going to read the full version. No doubt I’ll be reflecting on it more over the next few days/weeks.

Introduction

This sets out the background to the airing of the programme on 31 May 2011 and the scope of the serious care review (SCR) which covers the period between January 2008 – when South Gloucestershire Council received their first safeguarding referral to 31st May 2011 when the Panorama programme was aired.  It explains the terms of reference of the report and some of the specific incidents seen on Panorama which caused concern.  This included illegal restraints procedures and

‘notions of a hospital, nursing, assessment, treatment, rehabilitation and support were emptied of meaning and credibility’

The Place and the Personnel

Winterbourne View opened in December 2006 after a ‘feasibility’ study by Castlebeck Ltd which had assessed that there was a need in that particular geographic location for this kind of service. As seen in the programme the placement of a hospital on a business park seems unbelievable but according to the ‘Statement of Purpose’ quoted in the report, there was local access to ‘amenities and a main bus route’ – one does wonder how much this was important to those in the hospital as opposed to those working at the hospital.

Families were not allowed into the bedrooms of those living there which rings many alarm bells to those of us in the sector but may not have been seen as something unusual if you don’t know how these things should operate.

Learning disability nursing and psychiatry were the only disciplines employed in the so-called ‘multi-disciplinary’ teams. The report explains the structure of the service and staffing which was heavy on support workers, which in itself isn’t surprising however a ‘hospital’ employing no occupational therapy, for example, is particularly surprising.  There was a very high turnover and sickness rate among staff which in itself is a sign of there being something particularly wrong in the structures.  12 hour shifts were the norm which may have suited the service and staff more than those who use the service and there was certainly a lack of detail regarding day time activities and timetables for those who lived in Winterbourne View.

I do wonder where the input from care managers/care co-ordinators were in terms of monitoring care plans and ensuring their were adhered to. My gut feeling is that with out of area placements, there was less impetus to be able to monitor these. Commissioners didn’t seem to make many demands that the operating guidelines for Winterbourne were met in terms of providing a therapeutic and rehabilitative environment.

Chronology

This section details the concerns raised and is an analysis of what was actually happening at Winterbourne along a timeline.  Unsurprisingly there are a string of concerns raised that when seen along a timeline can build a picture of a hospital and an organisation that is not fit for purpose.

Part of the concern as a whole is that the dots were not connected in terms of the series of incidents and concerns to build a coherent picture of what was happening. Whilst it’s ‘easy to be wise with hindsight’ it’s important to remember that we have systems which are supposed to protect vulnerable adults which should include collating and using information, concerns and reports to build cohesive pictures of what is going on – that’s even without the whistleblowing which took place.

It makes very difficult reading – all the more so in the context that it was not sufficiently investigated, not internally, not locally and not by the regulator nor police. The key worry that ran through my head is that this may have continued had it not been for both the intervention of determined ‘whistleblowers’ and the involvement of a BBC journalist. That’s a very very worrying lesson that needs to be acted on.

The Experiences and Perspectives of Patients and their Families

The author of the report spoke to six families in particular and explains their perceptions, experiences and understanding of what was happening at Winterbourne View.  The report gives life to some of those who lived at Winterbourne View and humanises them in a way, it seems that the service itself never did – with hopes, aspirations, character and personality.

One patient said

he had been in ‘loads of worse places than them, all over the country’ and that he had been abused in lots of care homes

And if there’s a key lesson to learn it is that Winterbourne View is not an anomaly and shouldn’t be seen as such.

The patient recollections of abuse and treatment at Winterbourne is very powerful. It evidences the importance both of listening and humanising approaches within residential care and hospital care. The importance of being near families and the disruptions of constantly changing placements seems to be the nature of life for some groups of people who have particular care needs and I wonder where the power in commissioning is coming from to look at different models.

When families raised concerns that their children had brought to them these reports were often disbelieved or families were not given the full details of what was going on.  It also raises the importance of visiting and monitoring – particularly for those who may not have families.

Importantly the report says

A family expressed anger that service commissioners making spot purchases to meet the needs of individuals do not know what they want to buy; they do not seek assurance that the service they believe they are buying is delivered; and they do not follow up on what is being provided.

Perhaps more importantly in terms of lessons to be learnt globally

‘As families recalled some of their distressing experiences, it was clear that they had no collective experience of being regarded as partners deserving of trust and respect or even of collaborating with paid carers.

There has to be a shift in the conceit of ‘paid professionals’ or ‘paid support workers’. We have to work with, alongside and for those whom we support and their families as otherwise we should be nowhere even close to a position in social care. Respect, listening and remembering whom we are serving  is the crux of the profession and that seems to have been lost somewhere.

Agencies

Castlebeck Ltd seemed to have a ‘limited executive oversight’ of Winterbourne View with the geographical distance from their head office in Darlington providing significant lapse in responsiveness when concerns were raised.

Interestingly they seem to place some of the blame directly on the CQC and problems with the transition from the Healthcare Commission to the CQC. While no CQC apologist this seems to be a very complacent and worrying dereliction of duty from the organisation that was paid to provide a service which should include self-monitoring.  The SCR looks at Castlebeck’s own analysis of their failings but finds it lacking with attempts to discharge responsibility for the things that went wrong. As it says

Overall Castlebeck Ltd’s appreciation of events leading up to transmission of Panorama is limited, not least because they took financial rewards without any apparent responsibility. The recommendations fail to address corporate responsibility at the highest level

Which is sad, but unsurprising.

NHS South of England also produced a report about commissioning of care and treatment at Winterbourne View.  Out of the 48 referrals made to Winterbourne View, 13 came from commissioners located less than 20 miles away and 9 of those 13 were from commissioners less than 10 miles away.

Worrying is that there were some placements made with few checks and some not even reading the most recent inspection reports.  Interesting that of the 48 English patients (the experiences of Welsh patients – not being the responsibility of the NHS in England were not counted in these figures) 35 were admitted under a section of the Mental Health Act, 13 were admitted informally and 6 were detained after being admitted informally. Unfortunately there are no details regarding the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards but it would be interesting to know more about those ‘informal’ admissions legally.

NHS South Gloucestershire PCT was the ‘coordinating’ commissioner being where Winterbourne View is located. They produced another report.  Hospital records were also accessed but there seemed to be no linking of information together and agencies not speaking to each other seems to be a major problem and continuing concern.

South Gloucestershire Council also provided a Safeguarding Review.  South Gloucestershire received 40 safeguarding alerts between October 2007 and April 2011. The system locally to follow up some safeguarding alerts seemed to be flawed in terms of not receiving relevant and necessary information requested back from Winterbourne View.  Many of the alerts ‘tail off inconclusively with no clear decisions and no rationale for decisions’.  Each alert was dealt with discretely and the pattern was not allowed to emerge.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary were also involved as there were a number of assaults reported and they also provided a report. There were some flaws in the sharing of information between the police and the local council.

CQC also compiled a report.  The SCR picks up on some confusion in language in terms of the CQC and notes the importance  to note that Winterbourne View is not a care home but is a hospital. The CQC admits that it’s creation has had a significant impact on inspection of services – something we all knew – but it’s good to see them acknowledge this finally rather than paint the biased hue of everything ‘being better’ under the new regime.

The lack of specialist inspectors is a particular factor that the new systems of regulation have lost. Apparently ‘professional regulators’ is a better way of doing things rather than those with specific knowledge of particular service areas. Perhaps this isn’t quite the right way to develop regulatory services.

Findings and Recommendations

The report finishes with a summary that is robust. Winterbourne View is a particular snapshot which has been able to take place due to a series of circumstances that put the spotlight on the services. These spotlights aren’t often shined into the world of long stay hospitals and residential care. But for a BBC programme, it might never have been picked up. That’s a lesson in itself.

Castlebeck Ltd didn’t provide a poor service because it had no money. It provided a poor service because it didn’t see any reason not to.  There were no reasons to question itself or what it was doing. Those questions weren’t being asked by any of the agencies responsible for protecting those who lived in Winterbourne View.

The recommendations are that the Clinical Commissioning Groups, Local authorities and NHS Commissioning Board should be looking more closely at the services they commission, where they are commissioning them and aim to cut down in-patient services.

The report emphasises

‘Commissioning is a professional activity that should be led by trained specialists who know and develop the market according to public policy’

This made me sigh as it seems in my own experience that we are moving backwards on this. I see fewer specialist commissioners who know their areas and more general commissioners who come from non-health or care related backgrounds and with little understanding of the sector or the needs locally of those who use the services they commission.

The report strongly criticises the commissioning of long stay hospitals for people with learning disabilities as perpetuating the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ type modelling for care services.

Recommendations include a more robust use of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and particularly that

‘The Department of Health should assure itself that CQC’s current legal responsibility to monitor and report on the use of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards provide sufficient scrutiny of the use of DoLS’

There was a lesson in poor multi-agency working which needs to be worked on actively and there is a recommendation that those who are subject to provisions of the Mental Health Act or Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards as well as all who make a complaint have access to independent professionals, whether social workers, Best Interests Assessors, IMCAs or IMHAs or more than one. Advocacy is crucial to prevent abuses.

As far as the CQC is concerned, the report explains that the ‘light touch’ regulation, enamoured by the CQC doesn’t work with settings like Winterbourne View. The CQC has been too reliant on self-reporting and trusting providers are complying.

There’s a recommendation that the ‘

Mental Health arm of the CQC should have characteristics akin to HM Inspectorate of Prisons in terms of standards’

That would be an interesting and useful development but I doubt the current CQC is set up to provide a robust monitoring procedure.

Conclusions

I haven’t been able to cover all the points of the SCR. It is worth reading in its entirety. It concludes by emphasising that services like Winterbourne View should not exist as they create no aspirations and hope.

They are not therapeutic environments and were created to provide a funding stream to the private company rather than to improve the quality of treatment and care to those who need them.

Commissioning should look at what exactly is being commissioned and what is needed to achieve the end result of an improvement of quality of life.

I look at this report and it is an excellent report, and I despair. I recognise parts of it but it is a particularly appalling litany of pain, distress and human suffering that could have been identified earlier. We relied on a television programme to identify these issues when there were so many people who should have identified this sooner.

No one comes out of this well apart from the whistle blowers who tried to make a difference.

Good services can and do exist but we need to be very clear about expectations of services and what we expect a hospital built on an industrial estate and factoring in amounts of income possible can achieve as opposed to services which truly exist in local communities.

It’s an awful situation but the SCR offers an opportunity to learn and do things differently. Let’s listen more and better across the whole sector and remember that this job is always a matter of partnership and never should be one of dictation. We have to do things better.

A look at ‘Caring for our future : reforming care and support’

paper stack 1 SQ BW 500X

A rapid chase through the Care White Paper

The government published it’s long overdue Care White Paper yesterday. There’s been time for a significant amount of coverage to push through to the media and I don’t want to repeat information that’s out there but rather provide a response/analysis from where I am and where I see it. There is a good summary on Community Care though.

It’s a hotch potch of a document. The words are pretty but there’s an underlying tone of ‘saving taxpayers money’ which shines through from every good intentioned statement. Saving money isn’t a bad thing but I wonder how much the intention is to change the way the market in care is delivered in line with the NHS Bill and how much is to actually change the philosophy behind the process of care. I doubt the government’s good intentions.

The White Paper divides into eight chapters. So I’ll follow that pattern in my review of them.

Chap 1: The Case for Change

Here, the paper itself sets out the current difficulties in the system as it is at present which is reactive to crisis rather than focused on prevention. I can’t help feeling a little cynical in noting even the current system wasn’t intended to be this way, but has developed as such due to the pressures on funding.  The government line is to prove the point about crisis response but that’s not really been the agenda all the time.

Believe it or not, there was a time we met ‘low’ needs and while accepting there is a financial limit, the demonisation of the system is hardly a true reflection of what was envisaged and more should be learnt about the ways that systems imposed develop into a ‘race to the bottom’.

So the paper suggests that the answers will be found by providing more services sooner in the process of ageing or a disabling condition.  We will have more support for carers and will be promoting communities to provide support within themselves.

People need more information, without doubt, and that will be provided. That’s hardly revolutionary but too much has been down to local differences – the old ‘postcode lottery’ arguments. This will be clarified so people can move around the country and know what they will be able to expect.

Interesting that the ‘opportunities from reform’ all seem to revolve around financial benefits. It’s a valid benefit and opportunity but an interesting angle so

‘Promoting people’s wellbeing and independence’ will ‘limit future demand for care and support and help to ensure taxpayers’ money is used for effectively’.

Support for carers will enable them to ‘remain in the workplace’ which will ‘support economic growth’. So THAT’S why they are so keen to support carers – don’t want anyone to think that ‘caring’ without pay for a family member isn’t a valid and essential economic contributor.

and ‘Supporting businesses to grow’ – which is maybe what choice is all about.

I’m not against these agendas but I think the framing in economic terms is very very interesting.

Chap 2: Our vision for care and support

Understandably and quite rightly there is a high proportion of ‘control’ wanting to be distributed from top down to users in this section of the White Paper which is all well and good. It’s been (rightly) the movement of travel and needs to go further. As someone who works with people who have not been able to benefit fully from the ‘choice and control’ agenda, I was particularly looking for things that would help and support the people that I work with here.

There’s a lot of focus on promoting communities in being active and enabling to those living in them. There’s a need to promote better information streams – quite rightly – the system is enormously complex and I spot a little line on page 19 about ‘supporting the transformation of the social work profession’.

So the role and place of the local authority to provide care and support will be changing as it says

‘instead of purchasing and providing care and support, authorities will increasingly be expected to take a leadership role in a local area’. That should be interesting.

Chap 3 ‘I am supported to maintain my independence for as long as possible”

So in looking at prevention of isolation and needs the White Paper turns to communities to look for support, quite rightly. There’s a lot of potential here and social isolation is specifically targeted with some wonderful local models explained in terms of the way they work with isolated people to bring them into communities.

Not everyone wants to be a part of a community and there are some people communities tend to be less eager to support but it’s a great initiative for some people and there will be a lovely new Outcome Framework which will identify measures of loneliness for us to work on while local authorities managers and accountants look at ways they can meet targets at low or no cost.

Commissioners will be ‘encouraged’ (whatever that means) to draw on community support networks rather than moving people into ‘formal’ services. I read that along the lines of finding services that are provided at low or no cost but perhaps I’m a cynic.

There’s a line here too about social work pilot schemes which will  ‘liberate’ (I’m VERY suspicious of the word ‘liberate’) social workers from case management. It looks like a push towards more community based social work but I have some concerns. Firstly, case management is only bad if it is implemented badly as a process rather than as a collaboration. Poor case management can have an enormously detrimental effect on someone.

I’m not convinced by social work pilots but will wait for the outcomes of these pilots to see before I make a final judgement. I like the idea of more community work but am worried at what cost it may come in terms of privatising delivery of service and moving responsibilities for provision away from a democratic mandate.

I do like the idea of connecting care homes with their local areas. That is enormously positive and where I’ve seen it happen locally, it has made a big difference. It does seem like a lot of ‘use volunteers’ as the answer to problems but honestly, that’s not a bad thing where there are volunteers. I just wonder if all communities will be as engaged and where there is such a great reliance on community to provide support, what will be done in those areas that aren’t as supportive.

As regards housing, there will be significant investments in housing for older and disabled people. I hope this will encompass people in mental health services and is not limited to those with physical  health needs. There is a muddle over extra-care sheltered accommodation which is described as a way to meet low level needs but also as an alternative to residential care. Oh, I mean a ‘cost effective’ alternative to residential care. Missed the key point there.

Chap 4 ‘I understand how care and support works and what my entitlements and responsibilities are’

Information, information, information. It’s crucial in order to make choices and the government sets out ways, particularly websites, that will provide more information about services and facilities to all rather than just those eligible for them.

Interestingly the NHS 111 number will roll out support for social care. I wonder how this will work as a national helpline when provisioning is so different locally and there will be an extension of services like NHS Direct and NHS Choices into the social care sphere. Look forward to seeing that. I genuinely hope it works.

Local authorities will also be obliged to provide more information online but also in other formats, to those looking at services and providers but it looks like there is intended to be a default move online for many access points – including self assessments online as ‘they provide a better customer experience’. I wonder how this marries with the issues around the digital divide. There will be paper and telephone options available at least.

There will be a national eligibility framework and it seems (although this will only be confirmed later) that it may well be set at ‘substantial’ under current FACS guidelines although there will be a move to a new framework of assessment and eligibility.

People will also  have more options about who assesses them.

‘Our ambition is for many more providers to offer assessment services’. Good business opportunities there and a role for the social work pilot schemes.

Carers will have an entitlement to assessment (which exists) and to the provision of services (which doesn’t at present). I’m glad to see that.

Chapter 5 ‘I am happy with the quality of my care and support’

There’s an interesting diagram on this chapter on page 38 with circles of ‘roles and responsibilities in care and support’ around the ‘service users and carers’ at the centre, with Government, Commissioners, Providers and CQC around them. Interesting that there is no place for social workers. I expect we come into ‘commissioners’ but sad that the profession doesn’t seem to have a place around this diagram and is not even mentioned.

There is talk of better regulation by the CQC with inspections annually (scandalous that they were ever anything but in my view).

Looks like they’ll be a return to some kind of rating system too. Strange that just disappeared.

Statutory Safeguarding Adults Boards will be convened by local authorities with police and NHS organisations inputting to them. There will be further consultation on powers to access someone who might be at risk of abuse or neglect.  Personally, I’d like to have seen more on safeguarding.

Commissioning on quality is emphasised (good) and there seems to be a desire to look at some kind of outcome model to judge this. There’s also an acknolwedgement of the failing of some private care homes such as Southern Cross and

‘Local authorities have a duty to provide accommodation to anyone – publicly or self-funded – who has an urgent need for care which is not otherwise available’ and noone will be left homeless if a provider were to fail.

I don’t doubt that would be the case anyway but more public protection for private companies failing can only lead to additional costs.

Chapter 6 ‘I know that the person giving me care and support will treat me with dignity and respect’.

Here there’s an emphasis on building skills in the social care sector. I don’t believe people go into this field of work to be oppressive or uncaring but the system dictates it and a bullying workplace leads to poor and dangerous service delivery to people who have higher needs.

The government claims to be committed to the plans of the Social Work Reform Board and that the College of Social Work will play a heavy role in improving standards of education and training in social work in universities.

The White Paper supports the position of Principal Social Workers in Adult Services and part of that role will be coordinating feedback from frontline practitioners. I look forward to having one locally as I have a lot to feedback.

Chapter 7 ‘I am in control of my care and support’

Ah, personalisation, that bittersweet word which means everything and nothing. Everyone entitled to care and support will have a personal budget – I genuinely thought that was already on track and didn’t think it was anything new. And look

‘We will push further with our ambition to support as many people as possible to enjoy the benefits of a direct payment’.

I hope that support is extensive and looks beyond the current models which have served some exceptionally well but many others very very poorly.

I won’t mention the ignorant way that advocacy is included in the White Paper which evidences a lack of knowledge by those who wrote the paper but will merely reference Martin Coyle’s (from Action for Advocacy) blogpost which says it all.

There’s some more in this section about integration between health and social care which is becoming more distant in practice rather than more evident.  Use of the term ‘care coordination’ is confusing as it is a generally used term in mental health services and has different technical meaning to the way it is used in the White Paper in terms of physical health. That has already caused us many confusing conversations locally as to someone having two care coordinators – one for physical health and one for mental health – which kind of proves the point about duplicating work and having unfathomable systems. The terms should really be clarified and separated if necessary.

Chapter 8 ‘Making it Happen’

A draft bill was published alongside the White Paper. I haven’t read it yet. I wonder that some organisations seem to have thrown their lot in wholeheartedly with the government which makes me a little nervous. I want to support positive change but I don’t want to be blinded by good intentions and words that lead to little that changes the lives of those who have the most need for support.

Interestingly the ‘financial context’ is stuck at the back of the White Paper like a growing tumour. There are mealy mouthed words about the government putting money into social care but while taking away in the other hand, from local government, they have contributed directly to the ‘crisis management’ only model that they criticise.

Conclusion

I see little if anything revolutionary in this paper. I see nothing that explains a change in the direction of travel and means of delivering social care. I see some positive signs and some acknowledgement of difficulties but we were moving down the path of personalisation at a rate that it could only continue. While there was mention of personal budgets for residential care, I saw nothing about ISFs and developing ways of promoting choice for those who are excluded from communities and who may lack capacity. I saw nothing about changing legislative frameworks. I saw a lot of gaps, not least, the massive funding gap.

Nice words though, fluffy and helpful and a lot of the language of ‘choice’ (where possible), ‘community’ (where free) and ‘market’.

These things are always filled with the right words. I think a lot of opportunity to restructure and rethink adult social care has been lost although there are some springs of hope – there aren’t by any means enough.

Pic by wintersoul1 at Flickr