The government’s pledge to fund free home care for people being discharged from hospital has been called into question over fears for patient safety.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Sunday that £588 million in funding will provide up to six weeks of follow-on care for people returning home from hospital.
But while this plan appears encouraging on the surface, a care sector leader has expressed concerns about how the government plans to ensure the safety of those facing early discharge, given the “severe shortage of carers” in the UK.
In an open letter to the government, Helen Dempster, chief visionary officer at Karantis360, a supplier of home care technology, said: “There is no doubt that being cared for in your own home is the safest and the preferred model of care for most individuals. But, announcing such news with no solution as to how the government can safely execute this strategy is beyond concerning.
“The UK relies heavily on overseas carers, but with coronavirus and Brexit restricting free movement of key workers, there seems to be no strategy as to how the significant volume of essential carers and nurses will be found to deliver the level of care that is required – and promised.”
Dempster has warned that more lives could be lost due to undetected illness or deterioration following early discharge if the government fails to acknowledge the need for an “entirely different approach” to social care.
She urged the government to invest in technology so that vulnerable and older people living in their own homes can be monitored remotely, freeing up resources and allowing carers to deliver optimum levels care by having access to a detailed picture of their clients’ needs.
“Technology alone cannot replace human care, but amidst the social care crisis and carer shortage, funding should be focused on supporting the carers and nurses on the front line that we do have, to ensure that no individual is left with unmet care needs,” Dempster said.