New figures showing that spending by Local Authorities on Free Personal and Nursing Care has increased from £133 million in 2003/4 to £347 million in 2011/12 are hardly a surprise; in view of our ageing population, and the drive to sustain older people to remain own homes wherever, and for as long as, possible. The rising cost of home based Free Personal and Nursing Care needs to be compared to the costs we would incur were older people not supported in this way, with many more spending time unnecessarily in hospital.
With the Scottish Government’s move to integrate health and social care budgets we should, in future, get a better picture of the combined cost of these services. Our expectation is that this will show that the increase is more manageable, as preventative spending bears fruit. In the meantime we called for a careful watch on cost increases to ensure pressures on Local Authority budgets don’t result in older people short changed in both the quantity and quality of the services they receive.
We weren’t the only ones concerned about the quality of home care, with UNISION this week publishing the results of a Freedom of Information request showing that 15 minute home care visits were being scheduled in 28 Scottish Local Authority Areas. We share its concern about standard of service that’s possible in such a time slot, and backed its call for a review to determine whether short duration visits are fit for purpose. You could arguably heat and serve a meal in fifteen minutes, although the quality of interaction with the client is unlikely to be great. But when it comes to help with dressing and washing, a rushed visit might even cause anxiety and distress. Whittling down services to at or below the bare minimum might save Councils in the short run, we said, but will ultimately cost more as where older people aren’t adequately supported in their own homes they are more likely to need residential or hospital care.”
Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer. This post is part of the ‘Tomorrow’s Fish and Chip paper’ article series reporting the hot topics Age Scotland has been discussing with the media each week, and the Charity’s response. The column will be taking a two week break and will return on Friday 23 August.