Investment in the care sector is essential to avoid mistakes being made

The care sector is back in the spotlight this month with two reports that highlight the ever growing number of challenges it faces.

According to the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) annual overview of health and social care in England, although some health and care services are improving, some are failing to improve and quality is deteriorating.

The review states that eight in ten hospitals are not safe enough and struggling to look after too many elderly patients who were not getting enough help from social care. This is putting a greater demand on services, including A&E with more attendances, emergency admissions and delays to people leaving hospital.

Meanwhile, the UK Home Care Association (UKHCA) has revealed that nine out of ten UK councils are failing to pay realistic prices to support older and disabled people in their own homes. The UKHCA has warned that the situation is threatening the future of the market with agencies struggling to recruit staff and maintain quality.

With these pressures putting patient safety at risk, there is an urgent need for both the Government and local councils to work together to try to address these issues – and avoid mistakes being made.

From our experience, the care sector has seen a sharp rise in negligence claims within the last 10 years. The types of claims can vary dramatically but many have stemmed from a lack of training, resources or supervision.

As highlighted by CQC chief executive David Behan, the government must put more money into the council care system to ease the pressures. We need a national strategy that will deliver more investment in staff and training, but which will also allow local authorities to target money at the services most in need.

The elderly in particular, must be moved up the priority list to avoid a potentially sharp rise in clinical negligence claims. The Office of National Statistics states that the number of people aged 65+ is projected to rise by over 40 per cent in the next 17 years to over 16 million, and the number of people over 85 in the UK is predicted to more than double in the next 23 years to over 3.4 million. Putting the right level of investment in place now will ensure that our growing and ageing population will get the medical support they need in the future.

The CQC’s review showed many examples of good care among its 20,000 inspections, so improving the system isn’t an impossible task. Some may say that putting more money in the pot is easier said than done, but the costs of not doing so could be far more significant.

For further information contact Karen Cathcart, a solicitor specialising in clinical and medical negligence at Devonshires.

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