Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health, announced last week that moves are being made to change the basic NHS model from one centred around hospital care, to one that helps people stay ‘healthy and happy at home’. Mr Hunt outlined how older people with long-term conditions such as dementia, diabetes or arthritis, need to be supported and treated in a very different way to accidents and emergencies.
Through this Better Care model, and by encouraging joint efforts between the NHS and local authorities, the Government believes that steps can be made towards wholly integrated care, which they estimate would result in 160,000 fewer emergency stays in hospital for the most vulnerable and elderly, saving the NHS more than £500 million a year.
While the proposals have caused some debate among charities, support groups and those in industry they have the potential to impact positively on the lives of many if quality of care is maintained, according to Barry Sweetbaum, managing director of SweetTree Home Care Services.
“As a quality domiciliary care provider, at SweetTree we see first hand the benefits that person-centred care and support at home can bring for individuals and their families, and also how putting good resource into people’s homes can help to alleviate pressures on hospitals,” said Barry. “When families get in touch with us, they’ve often had a history of repeat hospital visits and poor health but with good quality input at home we can often stop that cycle.”
He continued: “It has long been known that our health system is under increasing pressure and resources remain extremely limited. That means every day difficult decisions are being made in terms of how resources are allocated. What remains vital is that the care system facilitates individual needs being met on the one hand, while delivering best practice on the other.
“In circumstances such as those mentioned by Mr Hunt, where an individual may for example be in need of support for a long-term condition such as dementia, a hospital stay is in many cases not the answer. With the right information, care and support package in place, there is often no reason why an individual cannot remain at home and enjoy a better quality of life, within an environment in which they are familiar and feel comfortable.”
He concluded: “With an aging population and estimates that the number of people in the UK with dementia will exceed one million by 2021, it is great that positive steps to recognise and address the care pathways for conditions of this nature are now actively being taken. We welcome these proposals and are very interested to see how they will take shape and what role home care organisations such as SweetTree can play in helping to facilitate them.”