Spending review impact – six months on

The NACC highlight’s alarming effects of the spending review on older people’s services

No One Should Go Hungry campaignLast October’s spending review is already having a dire impact on community services, particularly for elderly people, warns the National Association of  Care Catering. Only six months on, the budget cuts forced upon local councils are taking their toll on more than just the unemployment queue, they are starting to have a serious impact on frontline services, particularly for the elderly.

Services for elderly people are being directly hit, up and down the country, despite the government asking local councils to ensure these services don’t take the brunt of the cuts. We outline below just a couple of examples:

  • Haringey Council has announced the closure of four old people’s homes and seven day care centers for older people
  • Home help services for the elderly have been cut by £68,000 in Buckinghamshire

These are just a few localized examples, nationally the story is even worse. Cuts in other local council services are having a further negative impact on the provisions older people rely on, meaning more are being forced into struggling hospitals and care homes.

Reports of mounting redundancies and job losses for the public sector have become a daily occurrence, but the real impact on services is now becoming clear and also makes grim reading:

  • Hampshire County Council has made major cuts to adult services, resulting in 23 services for those with learning disabilities now being cut to just four
  • Staff cuts have also had a significant impact on adult services in Hampshire, with redundancies effecting 11 catering staff, staff in care homes being cut and training budgets slashed by £600,000 for staff across the council

Some services are closing altogether, despite being vital for many in the community:

  • The Food Nutrition, Voluntary Sector Liaison and Adult Social Care and Health service for Nottinghamshire County Council will be closing on 31 March due to the budget.

These services are run by qualified nutritionists and provide vital guidance around nutritional care, ensuring older people are provided with nutritionally balanced meals in day centers and nursing homes. With this service being disbanded, the responsibility for nutrition will be in the hands of managers in the individual units whose area of specialty does not include nutrition. In effect no one will be checking the nutritional breakdown of the menus and the food people are eating. Cutting services like these will cause a rise in the number of older people who become malnourished, this will lead to more health problems and is likely to force even more older people into hospitals and care homes.

The NACC believes good nutrition and hydration are a vital aspect of social care, and investment in ensuring this provision is met in residential and community care will save money in the long term. Proper investment in these services will also help to ease the strain on hospitals and care homes, which recent reports have highlighted as providing sub standard care in many cases.

Derek Johnson, Chair of the NACC, said: “The fact is the UK has a growing elderly population and we must deal with this issue now before it becomes unmanageable. While there has been many reports flagging the issues surrounding care of the elderly in hospitals and care homes, the changes first need to happen for older people in their own homes. Investing in good nutritional care will actually stop many becoming so ill they are forced to rely on care homes and hospital services.

“While we appreciate the issues surrounding tight budgets for many local councils, our concern is that care services for the vulnerable are protected as much as possible. The NACC would like to see the government take a firmer hand in urging local authorities to recognize the importance of these services. The government should ensure there are provisions for these vulnerable groups that are unable to fight back.”

A report launched last October by the NACC identified one in 10 older people in the UK at risk from malnutrition. This is likely to increase further with figures showing by 2033 an estimated 23% of the UK population will be aged over 65 and a further 3.2m (4.5%) aged over 80. Investing in good nutritional care will help save money in the long term as malnutrition among older people can lead to increased hospital stay, increased readmission rates and increased transfer and admission to care homes, all of which costs the government money.

Good nutritional care is a vital service for the elderly as it is an investment in independence. Poor nutrition and hydration leads to poor health and a greater need for care. As our population ages and we face the challenges raised by the current public finances, it has never been more important to keep older people fit and well, therefore, preventing costly packages of care. The cuts happening to these vital front line services actually negate the government’s promise of a £2 billion rise in investment for social care over the next four years for the most vulnerable. It simply becomes a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

Some interesting coverage coming through on the back of BBC 1 Breakfast coverage this morning (March 16, 2011):

http://www.localgov.co.uk/index.cfm?method=news.detail&id=96714

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/health-12748114

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