Social care cuts putting patients at risk, say GPs

Concerns over lack of home support for elderly

Cuts to social care are putting elderly and vulnerable people at risk, according to a report by the British Red Cross.

The survey – held among both GPs and the general public – highlights concerns that a lack of support for people in their own homes is increasing isolation among older people, resulting in more falls and accidents, and putting greater pressure on hospital beds, says the Red Cross.

The research found that 88% of GPs say patients are being put at risk due to a lack of social care support, while 88% of GPs and 80% of the public say cuts to social care are driving down standards.

Furthermore, 85% of GPs and 82% of the public think support for people with less critical needs is being cut due to a lack of funding.

Red Cross, which provides social care support to people in the UK, says that home-based care can also save the NHS thousands of pounds per patient in longer-term health costs.

Independent economic analysis of the Red Cross’s health and social care services, carried out by nef consulting, shows that home-based support can save the NHS up to £10,000 per patient.

Sir Nicholas Young, chief executive of the Red Cross, branded cuts to social care a “false economy”.

He said: “We all know budgets are tight, but cuts to and under-investment in lower-level care which jeopardise patients’ wellbeing must be challenged.

“There must be a dramatic rethink to the way social care is organised in the future, with a focus on preventing crises before they occur and keeping people healthy and independent for as long as possible.”

The report comes after Freedom of Information data published by Labour last month showed that local authorities are reducing the number of elderly people whose care they pay for and increasing home care charges.

The statistics revealed that the average charge for an hour of home care has increased by 10% between 2009/10 and 2012/13, from £12.29 to £13.61.

Over the same time period, 11% fewer elderly people had their care fully paid for by their local authority.

The government is expected to publish a white paper on social care this month.

But Sue Elliott, head of care solutions at Just Retirement, said while the paper is expected to lay out some important reforms to the social care structure, the issue of how to fund social care is being addressed in a separate paper.

She said: “This perhaps reflects a lack of cross-party agreement on whether to accept the funding proposals put forward by the Dilnot Commission nearly a year ago.

“It would be disappointing if the funding proposals paper fails to send a clear signal about how the system will work and the financial responsibilities that each of us as individuals will need to take on ourselves.”

She added: “There is so much confusion at present and people feel aggrieved when they discover the state will not provide and they are expected to foot some if not all of the bill for care.”

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