The Scottish Government has made attempts to improve the care system by having more elderly people care for in the community rather than in a hospital.
However, they are now facing mounting evidence that this shift in provision of ace is not working as well as was anticipated. The NHS: Time for Action campaign, revealed that patients with long-term health problems are sometimes having to wait months for crucial rehabilitation services they require to assist them to live independently in the community – depending on which health board they go to.
Ayrshire and Arran state that they do not have a waiting list for rehabilitation services and NHS Lanarkshire claim to see every patient in under five days.
However, in other places patients are waiting up to 36 weeks before they receive staff visit from a trained professional to assist them living their everyday lives and keeping themselves out of hospital. Dr Jason Long, chair of the College of Emergency Medicine in Scotland, has highlighted that this rehabilitation service is very important and can be the difference between living an independent life at home or ending up back in hospital.
Furthermore, some health boards were unable to answer the questions put to them under the Freedom of Information Act. This makes it very difficult to gain perspective on how the system is operating across Scotland.
Moreover, this lack of information also makes it difficult to change the system if it is not working and to create policies and strategies to improve the situation. President of the British Geriatrics Society, Professor Paul Knight, has asked the Scottish Government for comparable figures to be available nationwide, which they should be able to provide.
On the other hand, the principles underlying the policy of care in community for older people still uphold their integrity. The idea has been to enable oder people to live in their homes for as long as practicable. This is often best for the older person and can also prevent the strain on the health system brought about by the aging population, as older people will be having fewer spells in hospital.
There may need to be an honest discussion among politicians and health professionals about the policy, particularly as some health boards are failing to deliver on the policy. Such a discussion will include talking about about where and why the system is failing and also about how to effectively fund improvements to the system.
The requirement to have this discussion becomes more and more urgent as Scotland’s population continues to age. The long waiting times for rehabilitation services are demonstrative of the inability of the current system to cope with numbers at present.
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