NHS cannot avoid their duties to carers

The Government has made an immediate response to our ‘NHS Not Making the Break for Carers’ report by prioritising carers in the NHS Operating Framework for 2012/13. The Operating Framework is the set of requests given to the NHS by the Department of Health every year, guiding their priorities.

Following our report, the Government has said that carers is one of only three areas that have been designated as requiring “particular attention”. Think of all the illnesses, diseases, long-term conditions and medical issues the NHS is concerned with, and then consider what it means that carers are up there as the most important priority.

Of course, the reason that the NHS needs to pay “particular attention” is because they have not been doing enough to support carers, despite additional money and Government requests to do so. This Operating Framework is a sign that Health Ministers Paul Burstow and Andrew Lansley are losing their patience having been quite clear what they expected from the NHS in terms of supporting carers.

What they didn’t expect was that most Primary Care Trusts (PCTs – local NHS bodies) would not publish plans and budgets to support carers despite being asked to; and that some would continue not to invest a single pound in services to support carers, despite receiving additional money for this.

So for 2012/13, PCTs need to agree plans and budgets with local authorities and local carers’ charities. These plans should identify how much of the total is being spent on breaks and indicate the number of breaks that should be available from that funding. Importantly, PCTs have to publish these details on their websites by 30th September 2012 at the latest.

But we can’t wait until then to act. Carers and carers’ charities need to be contacting their local PCT now to find out how they will be improving on what they were doing this year. PCTs by ranking in terms of spending on services for carers and ask the non-Executive Directors of your PCT what they will do to improve that.

The NHS has a duty to those people who have often sacrificed so much to care for people, and they also have a duty of care to their patients who are otherwise being cared for by their friends and family. Our message should echo that of the Government’s; the NHS can no longer avoid their duty to carers.

Take care


November 30, 2011 Posted by | Health | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Government’s programme: what’s in store for carers?

Thirteen days and twelve hours after the polls closed, now we know. The new Government’s programme – an amalgamation of manifestos – has been published. You’ve got to hope that those who stayed up during election night didn’t wait this long before catching some sleep.

In relation to health and social care, what’s in store for us?

Paul Burstow, Carers Minister

Paul Burstow (now Carers Minister) & Tom Brake MP with local carers earlier this year

The big worry was that there would be no reform of social care in England. But the good-as-could-hope-for news is that a(nother) commission will report within one year on ideas including a voluntary insurance scheme to protect assets of those in residential care (Tory policy) and a partnership scheme proposed in the Wanless Review (Lib Dem policy).

People receiving support and carers must be a part of this commission.

For carers specifically, the new Government has said they will use direct payments to carers and better community based provision to improve access to respite care. We’ve heard on the grapevine that the new Health team (Andrew Lansley MP is Secretary of State and Paul Burstow MP is Minister for Care Services) are keen to address PCTs not using the Carers’ Strategy money for carers. We hope to work with them on this.

And the Government are proposing elections for part of the Primary Care Trust boards. Carers – get in there!!

Other announcements include:

  • Help elderly people live at home using community support programmes and adaptations
  • Retain winter fuel allowance, free TV licence, free bus travel, eye tests and prescriptions for older people
  • Restoration of earnings link for the basic state pension from April 2011 and will rise by the higher of average earnings, prices or 2.5%.

So this is the good news. The bad news, that we must all expect, will be the £6bn savings to be announced in a new budget promised within 50 days of taking office. But that’s only for this financial year. April 1st 2011 is the date that many local authorities dread, which I’ll explain about more in a later blog.

Take care


May 20, 2010 Posted by | Carers Strategy, Conservatives, Health, Liberal Democrats, Social Care | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Consensus on social care? Not yet…

This week we have seen social care everywhere in the news.

Our Chief Exec, Carole Cochrane, attended the much publicised care conference today, called by Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, and attended by Lib Dem Shadow Health Minister, Norman Lamb, but boycotted by Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Andrew Lansley.

With all the major charities represented, the conference sounds like it was a much more sensible and thoughtful discussion than some of the stand up rows the politicians have been having recently.

Andrew Lansley in front of a poster of David Cameron

The Tories have specifically ruled out a compulsory levy

The view of the majority of those represented at the conference is likely to add further fuel to the flames, however, because there appears to have been a consensus that some kind of universal (read: compulsory) insurance system was the best solution, or perhaps the least worst option would be more accurate.

This won’t go down well with the Conservatives who are favouring an opt-in solution and have specifically ruled out a compulsory levy, particularly one that you pay in inheritance tax after you die (the so-called “death tax”).

Neither option is perfect. People don’t really like compulsory systems – most of us keep our fingers crossed that we’ll never need to give or receive care, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Optional systems give more choice, but are much more expensive to buy into, because the risks are spread across a smaller group.

Our view is that whichever option is chosen (and let’s hope that, whoever wins this argument and the election, we do at least get one of these options in place, however imperfect), most care will continue to be provided by unpaid family carers.

Today’s conference agreed with us that, whichever option is chosen, as well as being able to pay to participate, the unpaid caring that you provide should also count, in lieu of a cash contribution. After all, people who care full time for years simply don’t have the same opportunities to build up income and savings.

It’s time that the political parties stopped focusing all of their energies on criticising each other’s ideas and instead came up with a decent offer to the UK’s six million carers.

Our sources tell us that one of the parties might be going to do just that on Monday…watch this space.

Take care,


Alex Fox, Director of Policy and Communications at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, is standing in for Gordon on his blog this week.

Alex has written an article in Society Guardian this week on the “need for a clear emphasis on unpaid carers”.

February 19, 2010 Posted by | General Election | , , , , , , | Leave a comment