An older lady is helped down a path

Blog updated 31 August

At the British Red Cross, we want everyone to get the support they need to live as independently as possible. This is why we’ve been asking people to share their care stories with us.

Your good, bad and mixed experiences help us to understand how the health and social care system is working – or isn’t. The more we know, the more we may be able to help make it better.

A survey released today by Independent Age found that only 1 in 10 MPs in England believe the social care system is fit for purpose for the UK’s ageing population. This aligns with what you’ve told us about your experiences of care.

Here are four key things we know about care based on the stories shared so far.

1. There is too much pressure on hospitals and social care

A woman sits in a wheelchair in hospital

“All too often, we recommend that someone will need a package of care to return home safely and then watch them remain in hospital, despite being medically fit for discharge,” said one occupational therapist working in a hospital.

Lots of the experiences shared with us talked about how a lack of care services in the community are also putting hospitals under pressure.

When there isn’t enough care in the community, people fit enough to leave hospital can’t.

This takes up much-needed bed-space (otherwise known as ‘bed-blocking’) which can then lead to things like the cancellation of operations.

2. People should be at the centre of their care

A man and woman look at old photos

Several stories emphasised the need to look beyond a person’s illness or condition, and recognise what was important to them as a person.

For many, the most important thing is to live independently at home. Good care treats patients as people, not a ‘problem’.

Yet this is difficult in an overstretched system where carers and health workers have less time to focus on the needs of each person.

“The agency regularly sent new carers (they had a very high turnover) who rarely read the care plan and my father, who didn’t want strangers dealing with his private hygiene, was irritated and resentful,” said one primary carer for a parent with dementia.

3. There is a need for lower-level, preventative care

A women stands at her front door holding on to a grab rail

This kind of care could be as simple as fitting a grab rail to reduce someone’s risk of falling, or giving someone a walking frame so they can still do everyday activities important to their emotional wellbeing – like getting to a local café to meet friends.

“I was very grateful when the British Red Cross came and fitted two wall rails in the bathroom and one in the downstairs loo.

“They also loaned me a special stool to sit on while having a wash at the kitchen sink in the early days after my operation,” said one older person who received support from the Red Cross.

Research tells us about the positive effects of preventative care in the long term. After all, prevention is better than cure. But cuts to services mean many people are not able to access these. This is a false economy.

4. Care should be integrated

A women waits at her door as a carer carries her shopping in

Several stories we received praised how well care is delivered when everyone works together.

Integrating services appears to result in a better experience for those needing care and their loved ones.

When one man’s father had a fall and needed support at home, everyone worked together to ensure he got the right care.

“Our GP assessed him over the phone. He decided that he did not require hospital admission, but alerted the integrated emergency response team based in South Cumbria.

“From that point on the care and attention he has received from the GP, the response team, the medical practice, the occupational therapist and, most importantly, the locally-based bank of district nurses has been outstanding.”

Tell us your story

People are at the heart of the health and social care system: from informal carers looking after a loved one, to occupational therapists, to people needing care themselves.

Everyone has a story to tell – which is why we asked to hear them.

These stories and experiences reinforce our recommendations that care needs to be adequately funded, person-centred, preventative and integrated.

But we still want to hear more stories.

Your stories of what works and what doesn’t will help change minds – and with that, policy.

Whether it’s good, bad or mixed we want to hear from you.

#CareStory

This blog was first published on 21 July and updated on 31 August 2017.