Integrated care – fact or illusion?
It is about time we had a right to integrated care. Surely this is absolutely fundamental and should be available as a matter of course.
Take for example a Mrs Smith who was the main carer for her husband who suffers from several long-term conditions, including severe leg ulcers. Mrs Smith has no support in place to ease the pressure of caring for her elderly, frail husband and was becoming increasingly stressed out and upset.
Every so often Mrs Smith went to see his consultant as his local hospital. These visits often led to changes in his medication and care needs.
As you can imagine the real challenge was to make sure that the changes to dressings and medications were communicated effectively between all parties concerned.
Sometimes there was confusion about Mr Smith’s treatment in that professionals who were visiting him were unaware that his medication and treatment had been changed.
If Mr and Mrs Smith are lucky then they will get a conscientious health professional involved whose main priority is to get better care co-ordination between the Nurses, General Practitioners, Social Services and the local Hospital.
By ensuring that all parties are working together they are able to put in place a sitting service and a respite break to give Mrs Smith some time to herself.
In an ideal world, if this happened as a matter of course carers like Mrs Smith would be able to receive a much-needed break and a holiday to recover from their care responsibilities.
If integrated care was available, then Mrs Smith would be able to continue to care for her husband without jeopardising her own health and by also ensuring that Mr Smith has quality care.
The outcome of this would surely be a more relaxed and stress-free Mrs Smith and Mr Smith’s health would continue to get better and he would feel reassured that he is less of a burden on his wife, which in turn would allow him to deal with the condition with a positive mindset.
Anyone who has multiple long-term conditions will often need the support of a range of different care services. Integrated working is absolutely fundamental to getting this right, which should be available as a matter of right, not by accident.
Hopefully, the new Health and Social Care Act of 2012 will encourage integrated health care.
"We often come across carers whose only contact has been with a Social Worker who may or not be aware of the extent of a patient’s needs, and consequently the carer is left fire-fighting and knocking on other health professionals doors in order to get some guidance and help. This does not help either the carer and it certainly does not help the patient, so it is about time that greater health care became a reality." Janet Cooper, Solicitor.
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