On Tuesday 4th March I visited Time Court Nursing Home in Greenwich, along with Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham. We were joined by Sir John Oldham to launch the report of his independent Commission on Whole Person Care.
Sir John and his Commission have produced an excellent report on how to put people’s needs at the heart of our NHS and care services. It shows how ‘whole person care’ will make a real difference to people’s lives. It proposes one person to co-ordinate all of a person’s care and support, and one team that works together to help people stay healthy and live independently in their own homes. I’m particularly pleased that it also strongly emphasises the vital role that family carers play, and how they must be better supported in future.
At Time Court, I met a number of people who told me how the co-ordinated care they’ve had in Greenwich has helped them get back on their feet again, after a period in hospital. Across the Borough these services are reducing A&E visits, emergency admissions to hospital and the number of people going into nursing and residential care.
Sir John’s report has been submitted to the Labour Party and is available online for you to read and submit comments. You can find it here.
I recently visited the Baxter Patient Education Centre in Kew, London to see how specialist nurses are helping patients to manage their long-term health conditions.
People who need kidney dialysis or help with intravenous feeding come to the centre to learn how they can do this at home. Patients and their families are trained for 4 days and stay over night to make sure they have the confidence to start when they leave. The centre also provides ongoing advice and support. The service is offered free for patients, as part of Baxter’s contract with the NHS to provide dialysis machines.
Rose, who’s 74, told me at first she didn’t think she’d be able to cope with all the machines but now “it’s a doddle”. She and her husband Ray said they like to play bowls and go on holiday and home dialysis “gives us our freedom”, rather than having to go into hospital three times a week for 4 hours at a time. Chris, a 35 year old renal patient, agreed that home dialysis gives him more freedom and choice, and that sharing experiences with other patients at the centre had really helped him too.
I also met Lisa who needs help feeding through an intravenous tube. Before she went to the centre, Lisa was really struggling with her health and going in and out of hospital. Because of the one-to-one training she and her husband John got at the centre, her condition is now much more stable. Lisa and John chose self-management because they have children and a couple of dogs and thought going into hospital, or having to rely on a district nurse, would be complicated to arrange, and because they wanted the confidence to cope on their own.
Jane Wild, one of the specialist renal nurses who works at the centre, told me she thought it was much better to train people in the community than in hospitals because nurses have more time to focus on the individual patient rather than constantly having to rush on to the next person. She also said nurses and patients have a different attitude at the centre. The nurses “have to sit on their hands, and help people to help themselves”, and not take over if someone has a problem. The patients know when they come to the centre “they are here to learn” rather than simply have things done ‘to’ them.
Giving people the skills, knowledge and confidence to manage their own health conditions can improve their lives and make better use of resources by reducing the need for more expensive hospital care. Making sure we shift the focus of NHS services more towards prevention and self-management is a key priority for me as a local MP and a member of Labour’s Shadow Health team.
On Tuesday 4th February I hosted a reception in Parliament for Saga – Britain’s largest provider of home care, and other services aimed specifically at people over 50 years old.
I spoke about the vital contribution older people make to our economy and society as a whole. An increasing number of older people continue working after they retire, many others give vital help to their families by looking after grandchildren, and their communities, for example by volunteering.
Yet all too often we seem to overlook the crucial contribution older people make, talking about them as if they are a ‘burden’. It is time we started to appreciate and celebrate the vital role older people play not only in our families and communities, but in our economy too.
High energy bills are already a huge concern for my constituents, which is why I have been campaigning for Labour’s energy price freeze.
But I recently came across a particularly appalling case when Susan Holmes from New Parks contacted me. The energy company e.on were charging Susan for a gas meter which she had never used and couldn’t use because her flat only has electricity.
I took the matter up with e.on’s Chief Executive and the company agreed to write off the charges and to remove the metre. You can read coverage in the Mercury here.
I’m now writing to residents in the six major blocks of flats off Aikman Avenue, to raise awareness of the issue and to try and assist anyone else in a similar situation. Please get in touch it you’ve been effected.