Candidates of all the political parties contesting the 2015 general election have been called on by the Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) to sign up to five pledges on the care of older people.
The RNHA believes the level of priority politicians give to the country’s older citizens says a lot about the kind of society we live in. It wants candidates who succeed in the election to pursue the pledges whether they are in government or in opposition.
In essence, the RNHA is asking new MPs to:
1. Make sure there are enough nursing homes in the country to meet the needs of older people who need 24-hour care by qualified nurses;
2. Involve care providers and service users in planning services for the post-war baby boomer bulge in the over-80s that will come in the 2030s;
3. Create a new Department of Health, Care and Support in order to develop truly integrated care and pooled budgets both nationally and at local level;
4. Put a stop to cuts in public expenditure on services for older people and focusing on what is needed to enable providers to deliver consistently good care;
5. Ensure a level of funding that will enable nursing homes and other care providers to pay their staff the living wage.
RNHA chief executive officer Frank Ursell has warned that the needs of older people risk being sidelined in the election and he called on the main party leaders to push the topic to the top of the political agenda in the weeks ahead.
As well as an election briefing listing the five pledges, RNHA members around the country will be sending their local candidates a ‘20 key facts about nursing homes’ card to highlight the crucial role they play in looking after some of the UK’s most vulnerable people.
Altogether, nursing homes across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have more available beds for older people than there are in the NHS for all kinds of patients of all ages. But, as the RNHA points out, nursing home capacity will have to rise in response to demographic change.
“The number of people aged over 85 years old is expected to double in the next 20 years and nearly treble in the next 30 years,” said Mr Ursell. “Many of them will have health needs that cannot be safely and appropriately met by domiciliary care staff. There will need to be an expansion of the nursing home sector to deal effectively with the rising level of demand.”
He added: “Sadly, there has been a mounting financial crisis facing nursing homes, many of which are struggling to balance the books. According to a National Audit Office report published in 2014, over the five years from 2009/10 to 2013/14the rates that local authorities pay for care home places increased by 5% less than the costs the homes were incurring in looking after the older people placed with them. A survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services found that 45% of local authorities had not increased their payments to older people’s care homes in line with inflation in 2013/14. That cannot go on.”