Alex Cunningham MP: 'Watered down service' of respite care will put more pressure on families
Ahead of his Adjournment debate on the provision of respite care for vulnerable adults on Teesside, Alex Cunningham MP writes that families and vulnerable people deserve better than a menu of weaker provision to give the illusion of choice on respite care.
Many of the elderly, disabled and vulnerable people in this country are looked after by their family members and loved ones, often giving up a large portion of their own lives to provide dedicated care. But we must recognise that in order for loved ones to be able to provide round-the-clock care, they need time to look after themselves.
Up until now, the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in and around my constituency of Stockton North have provided substantial residential NHS respite care for their family member. Now they plan to change the provision and consulted on two options with the aim of extending provision to more families, but with no more money.
Whilst the Government will deny that this is a cut as the funds are being maintained, the need to stretch the same funds to extend provision to more families has resulted in anxiety that there will be a cut in provision to existing families already in the system.
The option endorsed by the local CCGs indicated a reduction in the numbers of nurse led residential care – with other provision in hotels and even adapted caravans.
Not only has the quality of provision changed, but in communications there seems to be an increasing reference to ‘skilled support staff’ instead of ‘nurses’, implying that the skill level of staff will be reduced and family members are worried that they may have to be more involved in the respite care as the skilled support staff may not have appropriate experience or skills to deal with all types of situation. Another source of anger from local families is the substitution of NHS bed based respite turning into support at home – something many families may be uncomfortable with as it involves a stranger staying over at their home, a stranger that they may feel they have to supervise.
Families and vulnerable people deserve better than a menu of weaker provision to give the illusion of choice, when in reality it is a watered down service that will put more pressure on families, with the excuse of extending provision.
The CCG maintains that quality provision will be maintained – but must be equitable and needs led. I agree – but carers at the centre of the change have lost all confidence in the system and are worried sick that their already tough lives are to get even tougher.
I reject the notion that we must make cuts in our National Health Service, and we certainly should not be skimping on looking after the welfare of vulnerable people and their carers. Our healthcare service was built to be from cradle to grave, and it will slip away if we let it.
I want Ministers to take an interest in what is happening on Teesside – and help make sure that the needs of this most vulnerable group of adults and their caring families are properly met.
Alex Cunningham is Labour MP for Stockton North.