The Bristol Post: Cautious welcome for social care plans

A former NHS Nurse and Bristol businesswoman is leading the South West in calling for central Government to implement effective social care reform as the long awaited White Paper is published today.

Judith Tunnicliffe, Premier Homecare & former NHS Nurse

A FORMER nurse who runs a Bristol care firm has welcomed the Government's proposals to improve social care services.

But Judith Tunnicliffe believes more work is needed to improve efficiencies and communication within the system.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley set out his plans to reform social care yesterday, proposing the "most comprehensive overhaul of social care since 1948".

Among the proposals laid out in the care and support white paper and accompanying draft bill were a push towards more people being put in charge of their social care budget and more support for people to live independently for as long as possible, with £200 million being invested in the supported housing market over the next five years.

More consistent national guidelines are also proposed, so people's care will not be affected if they move between different parts of the country. There are also proposals to ensure people receive the highest quality of care and that there is a move away from contracting care workers by the minute.

An extra £300m will be transferred from the NHS to social care providers to support the changes and there will be a cap on the amount people who need to pay for their care will have to pay. They could also take out loans from councils so that they do not have to pay fees until after their deaths.

Mrs Tunnicliffe, who set up Premier Homecare in 2004, having worked in the NHS for 22 years as a nurse, midwife and health visitor, believes more could be done to improve people's experience of care.

She said: "It is good that social care is being talked about. A lot of people don't know what is out there in terms of help."

But she felt that a timescale of at least two years was too long to work out caps for payments from people in need of care.

"One of the most important things, I think, is the fact that yes, the government has recognised that more funding is required but they are not going to address how they are going to fund this for at least a couple of years," she said. "Even in two years' time when they do the spending review, I feel that – while it's not that I don't think they need more money – I feel it will never be enough until inefficiencies are sorted out.

"Internal politics and efficiencies within the different departments need to be sorted out so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.

"I used to be a nurse and I didn't know anything about home care but it would save masses of money if the people who have to refer patients know what is out there.

"It hasn't changed and there is still plenty of room to improve the communication to pull together and work for the same end."

Mrs Tunnicliffe welcomed Mr Lansley's claims the changes would bring an end to clock-watching, but felt it was not realistic.

She said: "People are already being given personal budgets, that is not new. But they are allocated following an assessment by a social worker and that will determine what they need in terms of care and support.

"These choices are fine if they fit into the resource that is available."