In December 2017 the CQC published an interim report based on system reviews of health and care services for older people in six areas. It won’t surprise anyone that the picture that emerges is one of a fragmented service with people working very hard to make things work, in spite of systems and conflicting priorities that don’t always help them.
If and when we implement better systems for assessing care needs and transferring people between health and care providers, the question remains about whether this will be enough. With current funding levels and arrangements will we ever see a joined-up service that consistently delivers on continuity of care?
Right now, continuity of communication, never mind care, can be an issue. Throughout the care service we see short term funding, short term or zero hours contracts, and a workforce with a high turnover of staff. These conditions are largely economically-driven and not ones in which a joined-up service will flourish.
Better software tools are helping. It is becoming easier to capture complex care needs, broker the necessary care packages and ensure full details of the service user and their needs flow through the system.
Disconnects can, however, still occur when the funding for initial care packages runs out. The process of re-assessing needs and brokering suitable care can still take too long. And without long-term funding it is hard for care providers to deliver long-term continuity.
We know that what people want most of all is to see a familiar face. Continuity of care is a very human issue. If funding is interrupted, the familiar care worker may have to be reallocated or may finish the short-term contract they were employed on. If we want to ensure continuity of care, we need continuity of funding.
Funding continuity will help ensure that service users never feel they are telling their story ‘over and over’ to different people and wondering whether anyone ever talks to each other.
The care workforce makes a fantastic effort and achieves so much in difficult circumstances. We need greater certainty over future funding to guarantee that this dedicated support will always be available when we need it.