Mr Richard Lock – Written evidence (INQ0014)
I write this with a rather heavy heart.
Having spent eighteen years in Community Alarm Service, Sheltered Housing for the elderly, as Scheme Manager and Sheltered Housing Manager nothing has really changed for the better.
Having been around for a fair old time it is rather inevitable that I have encountered some of life’s difficult moments. Both my former in laws died after contracting lung cancer and the family has lost both friends and relatives to ill health.
As a Community Alarm responder and Sheltered Housing manager I have also encountered many elderly people in distress and in death.
Does reminding ourselves of the emotions/conditions experienced by the elderly add anything meaningful to the discussion?
To be frank, there is one significant change which would make a huge difference and that would be for the establishment to learn to care.
Learn empathy, learn to change for the better. I am not making a sweeping generalization because I know there are some who have these qualities but not enough to make a real difference.
I’ve just read a book – Endeavour by Peter Moore - and it demonstrates exactly what I mean because, in the eighteenth century, all those unfortunate traits we have seen in the last few years were present then. It is, in my humble opinion, no exaggeration to say that the United Kingdom has, since at least the early years of the twentieth century, suffered from poor management. It should not have been allowed to happen, there are other countries who seem to have much higher standards than we do, for a so-called ‘developed’ and wealthy nation we should be a lot better placed than we are.
There are three areas that would, without doubt, be of an immediate benefit to everyone in the UK:-
1. Abolish the Television License Fee – divert that money to Social Services
2. Drastically reduce foreign aid – divert that money to Social Services
3. End Camelot’s Lottery Franchise – operate the lottery for the benefit of the NHS but this is not a figure I have been able to locate. The Arts could still benefit but the greater need is the health of the nation.
Yes, some people would be unhappy about this but it’s time that more of us were made to understand that feeling – there are too few people making decisions about so many without having the slightest idea of the misery their greed and self-centredness causes.
It’s time for sacred cows to be desanctified and the real issues addressed properly.
Politicians may not feel that the debate about democracy is not relevant to this discussion but it is at the core of our disastrous performance over many decades.
The means to improve the health of the whole nation are available, the political will to use our resources more effectively is not.
May practical measures to help fight poor health are available but often limited in scope. I know health professionals will, generally, agree that prevention is better than cure – it is certainly less expensive. More targeted screening would, I am certain, lead to better treatment earlier (cancer being a good example) not only saving lives but improving quality of life.
Healthy living is probably the most difficult area to address. I know from experience that efforts had been made for a number of years in the ‘90s and the early part of this century. Convincing elderly people that plenty of exercise will improve their health is not the easiest thing however, as the newer generation of elderly people ‘arrive’ I feel that many of them will be healthier and fitter than their predecessors.
Practitioner Nurses have been a significant development in communication with patients about healthier living.
Frankly most of us know we should be fitter and eat more healthily but a long life of making ends meet, working all hours, eating unhealthily, smoking and drinking made this very hard for many. I was no different, I ate drank, smoked and was merry but somehow the message got to me soon enough and I gave up smoking over twenty years ago. Subsequently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes I had to address my fitness and eating habits (I had also long moderated my drinking to social status). I would say it only takes willpower but in that I am lucky, many just find it so very difficult but I am convinced that it is getting better.
Perhaps the one area of difficulty in eating is actually getting enough of the right food. Hunger is still an issue though I am not altogether sure exactly why that should be. I do know that there has been a significant rise in the use of food banks in my area and also of community fridges but this is just as likely to be visited by younger people as the elderly.
Technology: LiveBit watches, Apps for people with potential problems to obtain rapid assistance. Yes, this should be urgently explored because it may well be a massive improvement on the existing services and lead to significant savings. e.g GPs being ‘live’ for patient contact without unnecessary travel in either direction. An early example of valuable technology being the ‘pendant’ which the user would press when needing help. I know that it saved lives.
The use of coordinators for patients with multiple problems would be a big step towards easing the situation – the long dragged out procedures for such patients seems designed to ensure that they do not live long enough to be treated for their ailments. This applies to all patients, and knowing the morale sapping procedure of getting referrals from a GP for every single step, every single new treatment, it just has to be less expensive to simplify these procedures.
There also needs to be a review of the resources available at hospitals, yes, beds are expensive as are consultants but I think there is far too much emphasis placed on budgeting at levels which, in themselves, are hugely detrimental to the treatment of patients and their quality of life. Not to mention the stress caused to staff who are unable to deliver care for patients at the right time.
There needs to be a new health insurance scheme that is compulsory for everyone, yes, even the exceedingly wealthy. Start from the beginning, when a child is born it has a National Health number, that should be the account number for the individual throughout life. A fair percentage of child benefit should be allocated to this account. If parents wish to make additional payments to the fund for their child/children, then that should be allowed with the clear understanding that it does not entitle them to special treatment. The aim of such payments should be to strengthen care for the elderly.
Another obvious target for making money available for care is the benefit system as a whole. Yes, there will always be those who need benefits for a variety of reasons and, since one of my daughters has had lifelong problems along with learning disabilities, I have some hard experience of the inadequacy of both the system and Social Services. However, the amount of money washing around the corridors of power, wasted on all sorts of things, like the maintenance of the Houses of Parliament, the fees for the Lords, the expenses gravy train at places like the BBC and parliament could be better used. Yes, public servants should be well rewarded for their work but in my opinion they do not, by any manner of means, always earn it.
There comes the thorny issue of immigration both legal and illegal. We are constantly told that immigration is necessary and is of benefit – what would the NHS do without Its foreign staff? Well, if the Government had not been so damned parsimonious over the years we would have had the necessary staff without resorting to the highly paid agents persuading foreigners to work here. Nothing against them for there are many who have become very good at what they do but please do not tell me that we do not have the capability here already. Then, people arriving here who need the services of the NHS have not contributed to the system and a significant number probably never will.
As very many of us will point out, money can always be found to fight a war without the realization that the casualties will incur unknown costs. I do not agree that our armed forces should be cut to the bone, a strong defence is vital in deterring would be aggressors.
You see, if you are honest, the more you delve into the issues the more you should be able to see the very many shortcomings of this very wealthy nation, one of which has been entry to the EEC without the consent of the people.
Employment for the elderly? Well, moving the retirement age compulsorily is not the greatest of ideas, removing choice in such an important point in peoples lives is a cause of resentment. I was ready to retire and am glad that I could because I had worked all my life – yes, even as a schoolboy.
Volunteering is all well and good, provided that is really what the volunteer really benefits from it. If an elderly person is persuaded to volunteer when what they really need is extra income then its no good. There are quite a lot of elderly people still working and there will be a variety of reasons for that. One such reason would definitely be that the state pension is not adequate for the vast majority of working people, who haven’t had the ability or opportunity to earn enough to provide for themselves.
I must finish by saying that, despite many criticisms that can be made of services from the NHS, I have been generally very fortunate and been treated well. Ithas always surprised me that there are so many problems when I haven’t, as a rule, encountered more than the odd hiccup.
I hope that the enquiry proves to be successful.
15 September 2019