Incisive Health report: "Care deserts" have formed across the UK
According to a report published by Age UK and Incisive Health, “care deserts” have formed across the UK. The report defines “care deserts” as areas without access to sufficient care and argues the existence, and growth, of these areas demonstrates that “radical and immediate action is required to stabilise the sector.” To assess the findings of the report, and to see what should happen next, we spoke to Kathy Maslen, Resident Manager of Genuine Care.
Citing the assessment of the Care Quality Commission that social care had reached a “tipping point”, the report goes further, arguing that “this tipping point has now been passed” and that social care is “gradually rotting away.”
The report studied the demographic and financial challenges currently facing the social care sector, the key factors that have driven these challenges and the implications of these challenges. To support this, they closely studied five local social care systems in Hull, Totnes, Norfolk, Guildford and Leicester.
One of the key challenges identified by the report was the reduction in the total number of care beds. Despite a growth in demand, this number has decreased with some areas being particularly drastically affected: in York, one in five care beds has been lost in the last three years.
National figures from the CQC show that the total number of nursing beds has declined by 1.8 per cent across England in the last three years and Age UK now estimate that 1.4 million older people, or one in seven, do not have access to the care and support they require.
Following on from our special report into social care, we spoke to Genuine Care to assess the impacts of these demographic changes and to find out what should be done. Genuine Care Homecare Services offer a range of tailored programmes in Kent, Surrey and the wider southeast of England, ranging from domiciliary to full-time live-in care. We spoke to Kathy Maslen, the Resident Manager, who told us:
“From reading the report and the data that has been gathered, we at Genuine Care agree with all the points raised but feel two major factors have a greater impact than the others.
“Firstly, we feel recruitment is the most important aspect of not only our organisation, but for everyone in the care sector. When employing new care staff, you have to consider a variety of factors: training, regulating, insurances, safeguarding, the need for unsocial hours and working alone.
“Finding staff who fit the right criteria to deliver outstanding care is becoming increasingly difficult, with a major exodus of workers from the sector. Brexit can be deemed as a major contributing factor, with seemingly less EU workers willing to travel to the UK than ever before.
“Another factor within recruitment which we find frustrating is that care is not regarded as a skilled profession despite the significant amount of responsibility, low wages and the ongoing training that is associated with the role. Gone are the days where home care was companionship; many more care packages involve basic nursing, particularly for high dependency or end-of-life care.
Secondly, we feel the lack of funding across the board creates major issues for everyone within the care sector. It appears that the lack of funding from the very top feeds its way through the whole industry and results in lower wages for skilled care workers who can find more financially viable employment in alternative sectors such as retail and hospitality.
"We have found local authorities in our area are not able to provide sufficient care for individuals which can lead to safeguarding issues, inadequate care provisions, untrained and unregulated providers of care and ultimately leaves a vulnerable adult without the correct skilled care they require.
"At Genuine Care, we provide a number of care packages, including end-of-life care. This can range from a daily visit to full 24-hour live in care. Currently, the NHS refuses to fund live-in care but will contribute to residential care. Today, it seems a person’s dying wishes for funding does not appear to be taken into account.
"Overall, we believe that lack of funding and the difficulty in recruitment are the major contributing factors affecting the sector’s ability to provide the highest standards of care.
"Furthermore, we believe that if people could gain a greater awareness of the important work that carers do, the funding gap would be filled and recruitment would be a simpler process."