An unnecessary stay in hospital can be bad for your health. Just seven days waiting in a hospital bed can cut a person’s muscle strength by 10 per cent – and every month thousands of people’s transfer out of hospital is delayed.
We don’t need to wait for government action before we do something about this. All over the country there is evidence that the care system is under pressure, and the people who step in to fill the gaps are families and friends.
We know that better matching of care services to those who need it could immediately start to relieve the workload for Britain’s unpaid carers.
There are literally millions of unpaid carers – recent estimates show that there are around eight million people in Britain caring without pay. Many are under immense pressure. Over a third of all carers are working more than 100 hours a week, according to the NHS.
Poor mental and physical health is common, as is the financial impact of carers having to leave work. Informal carers’ contribution to the economy is equivalent to £140bn – nearly the same size as the NHS budget.
There are no easy answers to solving the problems that are rife in the care system. However, there are ways businesses can act to support Britain’s army of unpaid carers, and those in the formal care system, too.
At the centre of the long-term care system is an imbalance between the supply of care and demand. Care providers continue to face increasing costs, reductions in funding and a high turnover of staff. In many cases, the availability of beds is there, but it is hard for providers to be matched up with the services they need – this is what causes people to get stuck in hospital.
The problem is a missing link between providers and people needing care.
Addressing supply must be a long-term objective, but while we wait for the long-awaited Green Paper, businesses can and are investing in technology that is transforming care right now. This includes tech that can better allocate demand and fill that missing gap between care “seekers” and care providers.
Already, tools like Care Sourcer are proving that finding care can be much quicker, taking user data and rapidly displaying providers with availability in their local area.
Rather than days or weeks, people can find care in hours, whether it’s care homes or extra support at home they might need if they are already performing care duties themselves.
Services like this can also tackle the delayed hospital discharges that add significant and unnecessary costs of the health service.
Almost a million hospital bed days were lost in 2016/17 according to Age UK, costing the NHS as much as £173m.
Technology like Care Sourcer has already shown the way with a proven ability to reduce delayed transfer of care by 40 per cent. We think it could save the NHS millions if deployed across the country.
Importantly, it also means patients avoid unnecessary waits of days and weeks in hospital until a care provider is found.
Of course, technology is just one solution.
Caring for a loved one places significant pressures on an individual, both emotional and financial. More than 15 million working days across businesses in the UK were lost in 2017/18 alone due to stress, depression and anxiety.
Employee Assistance Programmes can make a huge difference by supporting the carers that are critical to the care system. These programmes give people a support network in their time of need, and they’re proven to get carers back into work sooner.
Carers, informal and formal, are an essential part of the way we look after each other – we need to support people who are propping up Britain’s intergenerational contract.