The head of the Care Quality Commission has called upon the government to commit to a plan to solve the UK's social care crisis.
In an interview with the Guardian, David Behan criticised the PM’s ‘lack of courage’ in dealing with the many problems facing social care.
‘This is about whether people in their later years are treated with dignity and get the support they need to maintain their dignity,’ said Mr Behan.
‘It’s really a hallmark of a civilised society the way that we care for older people. I don’t think we should have a system where people should be fearful of growing older because there won’t be the services there to support them in the future.’
According to Behan, cuts to local council budgets have left 1.2 million people in England without the social care they need at home.
Community nurses are dealing with the day-to-day of the crisis, including increased workload, staff shortages and lack of resources.
‘Community nursing is changing so much and so dramatically, meaning we are having to take on more and more different roles. All our patients are completely housebound, and we spend a lot of time giving medication or putting in intravenous lines, which was a very rare thing when I first started,’ 'Sam', a community nurse from South Gloucester, told Independent Nurse.
‘When I first started as a community nurse eight years ago, we maybe had three or four people at a time who needed end of life care, but today we have about 20 people. The patients are coming out of hospital more ill than ever before, meaning they need careful monitoring - but we just don’t have the time or the staff.’
In the last eight years, the number of full time community nurses has dropped by almost 6,000 according to the independent fact checking charity, Full Fact.
‘When patients come out of hospital they are in such a bad way that they need a carer at home. Often the training the carers get from the private companies that run trusts is not very good, so if something happens to the patient, the carer ends up calling us and we have to go in and help - even if it’s just for the tiniest thing. We end up with so much to do - there is no patient limit in community nursing, we have to see everyone,’ said 'Sam'.
The Department of Health responded to the criticism, citing the forthcoming Green Paper for the planned reforms to the NHS, which was recently delayed again until the autumn by health secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
‘Our growing, ageing population is the defining challenge the NHS faces in its 70th year. Any solution to this must recognise that health and social care are two sides of the same coin and reforms must be aligned,’ said a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care.
‘That’s why we will publish our green paper on social care reform in the autumn alongside the long term NHS plan - to ensure we have a world-leading health and social care system that works for everyone, now and in the future.’