'Appeared' on BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement this morning. The subject was 'care of the elderly'. Fellow guests were Baroness Finley and a new Labour AM named Mark Drayford. Never encountered him before. He seemed very keen to be party political. Started off by talking about Mrs Thatcher for goodness sake, and later on started talking about reductions in public spending as if it was nothing whatsoever to do with the Labour Party. When discussing a really important subject I do find this approach to be so tiresome - so I just ignored him. I think Vaughan found him tiresome as well.
Reason this issue was under discussion today was the publicity there has been through this last week about Southern Cross, an issue that's been on my radar for a year. Southern Cross is the biggest care provider in the UK, and has been an accident waiting to happen. Lets set aside the 'care' aspect of this, and consider the financial structure of this company - put together in great haste, during a property boom about 5/6 years ago, by a private equity company, split into two and sold on (at graet profit). The problem as I see it, is that the property side of the business, and the operational side are completely separate entities. There's nothing wrong with this model if its a group of hotels say, or golf courses. If the property side goes awry (which happens) the casualties can look after themselves. But care home residents can't. When there are unplanned home closures, there is inevitable a great deal of human misery, and accellerated deaths. My view is that there should be financial regulation as well as care regulation to ensure that only sound business models are allowed to operate in the sector.
Truth is we are moving forward into a massive crisis in care delivery. We are living to be older, which brings with it a huge dementia problem which we are not ready for. It must be faced. The Coalition Government did put some 'sticking plaster' money into this sector last year, while we await the publication of a comprehensive report into the future - by the Dilnot Commission, expected later this year. We cannot carry on as we are. We have to find some way of paying for care. We have to find ways of keeping people in their own homes for longer. Failure to do these things will carry a massive price - paid by the most vulnerable people in our society. Its too big an issue to play political games with.