A Call to Nationalise a financially-failing but vital healthcare sector
Ever wondered why you don’t get to see Grandma smiling much, when you do get to visit her in the Care Home, that is? Or your father, whom you pay fairly large wodges of cash for someone else to look after all his bodily needs, mainly because it wouldn’t be convenient to look after him yourself? The Care Quality Commission is supposed to regulate the 21,500-plus Care Homes, but it usually has a quick look around every three years, ticks its multitude of boxes on its thick clipboards, and moves on to the next.
I am one tiny part of a large, yet virtually invisible army. I am what is known in Government-speak as a ‘Carer’, for I look after my beloved wife in our own home. My wife was hit by a mental illness decades ago; but has over recent years, become more and more dependent upon help to accomplish the simplest tasks. Over fifty years ago, I stood beside this funny, sharp-minded, beautiful woman, and took an oath. I swore to look after her through ‘Sickness and in Health ……for as long as we both shall live’. I don’t consider myself special, or anything out-of-the-ordinary; but I do think that, if the roles were reversed, she would do the same for me. We have received some help from tax-payer resources, with such items as a wet-room shower conversion so I can wheel my love in for a shower, and get her refreshed and ready to start the day. We also have an electric hoist, so she can be raised from her medical bed and sat in either the waterproof chair, or her wheelchair; so that she may watch either a ballet or opera dvd. I consider myself lucky that I am in comparatively good health, despite now being in my eighth decade; and I shall look after my love until I cannot, or until she dies. It is not an easy job, looking after a querulous woman, made old before her time by a combination of mental illness, incompetent British Mental Health professionals, and drugs which are doled out on a scatter-gun philosophy; a woman who cannot speak, except in a shrill, mainly unintelligible whine: but I recall the remarkably clear, unaccented voice of the woman who became my wife, I recall her smile, I remember her laughter: and that, folks, is why I do what I do; every day that we are given.
I write of these deeply personal things because I know that for every couple such as we, there are ten single elderly or old individuals, some worn out beyond their years, others crippled by mental illness; Dementia, Alzheimer’s, some who have proved too much for their families: who are sent to the dumping grounds also known as Care Homes. I accept that there are possibly as many reasons for old people to be incarcerated in one of these strangely-titled ‘Care Homes’ as there are Homes, but I have to ask, “what happened to the ideal, the strange notion that these are your parents, the people who gave birth to you; who fed you, cleaned your bottom, and occasionally spanked that same bottom when you were naughty: and that they deserve a touch of dignity in their declining years?” The reader will of course have noticed my antipathy towards Care Homes when I wrote of them as being ‘strangely-titled’, because the last thing on the minds of the owner/operators of the vast majority of these `Homes’ is, in fact Care of those frail human beings placed in their care by either family or Council. They are a pile of multi-million-pound businesses, and, whether they will admit it or not; most of them are in deep financial trouble: despite the huge sums paid by the Government through Council provision, or family payments.
I have given this idea much thought, and I am proposing, insisting, that the politicians who rule over us with that iron fist in the threadbare velvet glove, consider that a step is to be taken which will change the whole idea of the Care Industry, and Nationalise the whole caboodle. The newest addition to the Publicly-owned, -funded and -operated Agencies shall be entitled National Care Home Network, and shall Nationalise the annual £16 billion industry, most of which is run on taxpayer-funded money anyway; prioritise the upgrade to set standards of all Care facilities, and pay a minimum of 1.5 times the minimum wage to attract the better-educated and qualified staff needed to upgrade both resident and staff morale.
Any extra cash needed can be siphoned off from the ‘Foreign Aid Slush Fund’ masquerading under the title of Dept. for International Development. It shall offer a standardised, safe and well-supervised resting place for those unfortunates who are struggling against the stealthy strands of Dementia along with other illnesses; or who are so frail as to not being able to safely look after themselves in their own homes if they are unfortunate enough to have been in hospital. Entry shall never be means-tested; entry shall be limited to British-born subjects of Her Majesty, and their families, who have worked and paid their taxes to HMRC. And ‘Best of All’, it too shall be ‘Free at the Point of Delivery’; because, just like its big brother the NHS, it is funded totally by the Taxpayer! No more homes shall be sold off to pay for shelter and respite, no more hugely complicated equations to determine who should pay; no more bureaucrats deciding who is entitled to what!
Is it a pipe-dream? Is it just a fantasy? Nope, I reckon it is not only feasible: it is necessary!