Marta’s Blog – December 2021

Hello everyone and welcome to my last blog of 2021. What a year it’s been! 

Normally at this time of year I would be writing to you all about our plans for Christmas and New Year celebrations, but instead I feel obliged to say a little more about the tremendous pressures being put upon the care system in this country. We are at the forefront of this, experiencing things you may have heard about in the media, at first hand. 

That doesn’t mean our residents and staff aren’t looking forward to Christmas. Of course they are, and we will all do our very best to make the holiday period as enjoyable as possible for residents, their loved ones and our staff.  

However, it is only right that I tell you that we are doing all this against a background of system failure. Something has to change soon and those in authority have to get real about what is happening on a day-to-day basis. Residents in care homes are being let down by the authorities. It’s putting unimaginable pressure on them and the staff who care so deeply for them.   

The core of the problem is the link between the lack of respect given to those who work in care, and the systems in place regarding discharge from hospitals. 

Those who work in the care system do so largely because they want to make a difference. They want to help and support our vulnerable elderly and do all they can to make their lives as comfortable and enjoyable as possible in their circumstances. However, they are let down by poor pay and conditions, the latter of which is now resulting in good people, really caring people, no longer wanting to work in a broken and neglected system. 

The Department of Health and Social Care’s ‘Made With Care’ recruitment campaign launched on 3rd November 2021 and we’re told will run will until March 2022. It aims to encourage people to pursue a rewarding career in adult social care. The campaign shows the amazing work that care workers do, celebrates the way they empower the people they care for, and shines a light on the emotional rewards of the role. However, although it is intended to promote recruitment, it isn’t really addressing the day-to-day problems that are frequently occurring. 

Take hospital discharges for example. This is now at breaking point. Some people come to us with no medication. They may arrive late in the evening, with no documentation, or record of their needs. This is an appalling lack of respect and care for these individuals and puts their care in jeopardy. 

To compound the problem, so many care homes are now understaffed that they simply cannot take in hospital discharges. These poor people, some of our most vulnerable, then end up being ferried around from place to place and often end up back at the hospital they’ve been discharged from. That in turn causes bed blockages in wards, which just makes the whole process worse. 

This prompts all those good people who work both in the NHS and in the care system to start blaming each other for the system breakdown. That isn’t fair. It’s not the fault of the NHS or the care homes, but the fault of those in authority who don’t invest either the time or the money to sort the situation out. It’s as if they are happy for us all to blame each other so they don’t have to take responsibility themselves.   

There are people currently talking about these issues. In our area The Devon Care Homes Collaborative Group do their best to understand our concerns. On a national level the recent ‘King’s Fund Analysis’ looks at the wider issues, and tries to address integration between hospitals and care homes. However, much as a long-term solution is needed, we desperately need something to change now. 

As each week, indeed as each day goes by, people are suffering, and these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.  Additionally, not only do care homes find it difficult to recruit more staff, but they are actively losing them through poor pay and working conditions. This is like two tectonic plates scraping against each other, on a path of collision. They are already creating ripples of distress, but the situation is inevitably going to be disastrous if somebody doesn’t do something as a matter of urgency. 

That’s where we are as we are about to enter 2022. On a knife-edge, and I can only hope that somebody in authority addresses these issues with immediate effect, making real life changes. I want to get back to telling you about all the good things we do in our homes. About our wonderful dedicated staff and the caring way they look after our residents.  I want to tell you about the fun times we have, the events, the games, the cultural days out – but all our energy has inevitably been focused on this. Our staff continue to provide the best care they can… but be in no doubt, we are in crisis, very real existential crisis, and all of us have to address these issues as an emergency.