Carers ‘reluctantly having to turn to A&E’ due to lack of support
A lack of community support is leading to carers increasingly taking loved ones to A&E for treatment, heaping further pressure on NHS services, according to a new report.
A survey by Carers UK found that 9% of carers said they had used A&E or 999 services when a loved one was ill because they didn’t know where else to turn for advice, and 18% had done so because they couldn’t get a district nurse or GP out of hours.
Of those who had a friend or family member admitted to hospital, 32% said they thought this could have been prevented if they’d had more support as a carer. This rose to 40% among ‘sandwich’ carers with responsibility for children as well as an older relative.
Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “The majority of care provided in England is not by doctors, nurses or care workers, but by family and friends. These carers have told us that they aren’t able access the support they need, when they need it, from community health and care services, so they are reluctantly having to turn to A&E.”
The government passed the Care Act 2014 to give carers new rights, including a legal assessment of their needs.
However, 65% of carers have not received the assessment, and 55% of local authorities have cut their social care spending since it was passed.
Social care as a whole is beset by severe financial problems, with a recent report from the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust warning that responsibility for funding care may pass to individuals and their families altogether in the future.
A report from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), also published this week, found that a lack of social care resources is contributing to high levels of delayed discharge for elderly patients and lack of follow-up care when they left hospital.
In the Carers UK survey, 26% of respondents were not consulted when their friend or relative was discharged from hospital and 33% were only consulted at the last minute.
Among those who were not consulted, 79% said they felt their loved one was discharged too early, whereas 65% of those who were consulted said the discharge had happened at the right time.
Carers UK said the government should “substantially” increase social care funding. It also recommended ‘stress testing’ the developing sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) from a carer’s perspective.
In addition, it said local authorities should work with NHS trusts and CCGs to develop integrated discharge policies and provided carers with training in what to do in emergencies.
Cllr Linda Thomas, vice chair of the LGA community wellbeing board, said supporting unpaid carers was “vitally important” to local government, adding “without them, social care and the NHS would collapse”.
However, she added: “Getting people out of hospital more quickly and back living at home will only work properly if councils get enough resources throughout the whole year to fund adequate provision of care services.”
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