A new report, Quest for Quality by the British Geriatrics Society (BGS), highlighted fact that many vulnerable older people resident in care homes are frequently denied access to routine NHS healthcare because of they live in care homes. The inquiry found many often cannot get access to GPs, therapy services, out of hours services or specialist dementia services such as memory clinics.
Quest for Quality calls for national action by the four UK health departments and local action by NHS commissioners, planners and clinical services to improve the quality of NHS support to care homes. The recommendations are supported by a broad coalition of 25 organisations and they call for joint professional leadership from the health, social, and care home sectors, statutory regulators and patient advocacy groups to find the solutions that none of these can achieve alone.
It identifies four areas for action:
1. A health service suitable for the specific needs of care homes residents who often have complex healthcare needs, reflecting multiple long-term conditions, significant disability and frailty.
2. Residents and their relatives must be at the centre of decisions about their care.
3. A multi-disciplinary approach involving participation and expertise of all necessary health professionals from primary and secondary care.
4. A partnership approach with care homes and social care professionals with a view to integrated working between the local NHS and local authorities.
Dr Finbarr Martin, Consultant Physician at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital and BGS President and who led the collaboration producing this report said: “In many places the NHS provides excellent healthcare to care homes and examples are mentioned in our report. This may be the exception rather than the norm and the reasons for this are complex. They include a combination of historical factors and that healthcare support to care homes has been a low priority for commissioners and planners. No one professional group or sector can be blamed and the challenge now is to change things for the better.”
He continued: “The purpose of this report is to galvanise decision makers into action. It is a strange paradox that older people with the greatest needs for healthcare are denied it because of their postcode. Action is required on many different levels which our recommendations set out. To be effective, there must be a partnership between the care home providers, social care commissioners and practitioners. Leadership is required not only from the NHS, statutory regulators and governments but also from health and social care professionals. It should also matter to the rest of us as the way we care for the most vulnerable people in our country is a barometer of a civilised society.”