The University recently hosted a major international conference on Care for older people hosted by three research centres; Health Services Research Centre, FairWRC and MICRA. The one-day event, entitled Fairer Futures? Reshaping Care for Older People heard from academics, journalists, barristers, service providers and older people from across the world on the common challenges facing older people, care workers and service providers.
Among the keynote speakers was writer Madeleine Bunting who said the political and financial issues we see around care today stem from the fact that we are not recognising the fundamental importance of care to human wellbeing.
“It is becoming more important to ensure that various people make enough money out of it, or that various people do or don’t pay for it. It has become an argument around finance rather than a debate about what is it to be human and what are our responsibilities to each other to ensure the adequate provision of good quality care.”
She said there were various factors that were driving these trends such as IT. “We are all constantly jumping to the mobile phone, the emails, the social media. That drives an impatience which permeates the rest of our lives. Social media and IT are built on tiny little blips of adrenalin, but care does not provide that sort of experience. Care always involves patience…but we are being groomed into a way of working which is in complete conflict with what is required to care.”
She said there had been a collapse in political consensus about funding and the collective provision of care. “There is a fundamental financial crisis in the care of the elderly and we don’t know how to tackle it. Politicians lack the courage to put choices in front of people and say ‘we have an ageing population and we are going to have to make some decisions’.”
Fellow speaker Rosemary Batt, Professor of Women and Work at Cornell University, said all countries were struggling with similar issues over the financing of their healthcare systems.
Her lecture focused on how US cities now increasingly outsource the provision of public services to Private Equity (PE) firms which have become an institutionalised part of the healthcare system.
She said that in the wake of the Obamacare legislation, PE was now investing in different areas such as clinics and outpatient services. “It is looking for parts of the supply chain where it can play a role.”
Paula Hyde, Director of the Health Services Research Centre, added: “The day provided a starting point for rethinking and reshaping care services in such a way that older people might be able to live more fulfilling and less constrained lives.”