Saturday, 3 December 2011

Elderly Care In The UK

The National Health Service in the UK has a very interesting approach to the care of the elderly which in all honesty I find quite repugnant. You start off with a sick and elderly person who is seen by a doctor and the decision is taken to transfer the poorly patient to hospital. The patient is then examined by the doctors at the hospital and is deemed to be frail and sick and is immediately admitted to hospital to be cared for.

Over a period of time the patient then fails to respond and because of their age and the complexity of their medical condition becomes progressively weaker and more frail. After a protracted period of poor communication, indecision and procrastination the decision is taken that the patient, in spite of now being infinitely sicker than when they were first admitted, is "well enough" to be discharged.

The logic of this completely escapes me, you enter hospital because you are sick, get much worse, then you are well enough to be discharged. Essentially this is simply discharging people simply to die "elsewhere" - the patient becomes a "bed blocker" (as displayed on a prominent dry wipe board on the ward) without that "elsewhere" being part of the same system.

At this point the patient is at the mercy of the “Social Care" system the complexity and inefficiency of which simply beggars belief. A mind-boggling bureaucracy then decides, without of course ever actually seeing the patient, who does and who does not qualify for ongoing care funded by the National Health Service and the standard of care, apparently monitored by the Care Quality Commission remains a complete and utter lottery. Once in the "Social Care" system it becomes difficult to identify exactly who is in charge of the care of a patient, the focal point of the hospital consultant having then been lost.

Funding appears to remain available to treat large numbers of "self-inflicted" conditions. At the same time it seems to me that old age, which will inevitably and naturally come to those who are fortunate to live a long life, will in many cases simply lead to a later life of neglect and poor levels of care, probably with enforced self funding in spite of a lifetime of contributions to the tax and National Insurance systems.

They do say that the civilisation of a society can be judged by the way it treats its elderly citizens, my recent experience has taught me a great deal about the civilisation of the society in which we currently live.

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