The shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has said that housing, charities and community services should play a bigger role in preparing for and supporting the ageing population.
Burnham told a Guardian event that “In your 90s, your needs become a blur of physical, mental and social. You need one service for the whole person. This is about moving the system from a medical model to a social model. There needs to be a single commissioning budget so we can make the link between health and education, planning, leisure, and crucially health and housing … Somewhere along the line, that link got broken and we need to get it back again. You cannot disaggregate one person into different systems and expect it to be a good experience. You can’t say to someone that the council deals with this bit, the NHS does this bit … that is not going to optimise their care, it’s going to provide a substandard experience. In the 21st century, the home and not the hospital needs to be the default setting for care … Why should frail people be carted off for care?”
Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of the housing provider Hanover, agreed and recognised that “housing is very introspective and tends to look down on itself, and doesn’t really understand how significant and central it is when looking at the broader system”. She said the housing sector works with many people over 55 who “don’t want to start being shunted around”.
“What we want is for people to live as long as possible independently surrounded by services and support if they need it, and where other people will make them part of the community,” she added.
“We’re increasingly sceptical about big sweeping changes,” added Mike Adamson, chief executive of British Red Cross. He highlighted the importance of preventive services and said the Care Act was “a tremendously powerful step” towards getting funding for such programmes, adding: “There are a whole series of interventions that can be made at different stages that can prevent a situation from getting worse.”
Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, said the baby boomer generation will have different expectations and make different demands.
“A lot of people may be trying to navigate the health and care system for older relatives and they cannot make sense of what is a completely crazy paving system,” she added. “They have no understanding of what they will be expected to provide and what the state will provide.”
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