One of the biggest things that frustrates people who need care and support is having to deal with lots of different people and services, and telling their story time and time again.
Islington in London is pioneering the use of care coordinators who act as a single point of contact for older and disabled people and their families. The care co-ordinators are backed by joined-up teams of social workers, district nurses, occupational therapists, physios, mental health nurses and local voluntary organisations who work together to make sure everyone gets the right help, at the right time.
When I visited the ‘N19’ project in Islington, I met Mohammed, who is 33 and suffers from MS. He told me how his care coordinator Tash, who is an occupational therapist, helped him get a special shower which he can use in his wheelchair, a ramp that allows him to get out into the garden, and a good physiotherapist to help him walk with crutches, when a few months ago he was confined to his wheel chair.
I also met Elizabeth Simms, who is 92, and her daughter Kate and grandson Alfie. Elizabeth’s care co-ordinator Shane, who is a social worker, has made a huge difference to her life. For example, Shane has arranged for someone to come and help Elizabeth prepare her food and do the shopping, sorted out proper security after a recent burglary, and made sure she has a special bracelet with an emergency call button which she can press if she falls or needs urgent help. Due to these changes Elizabeth decided not to move to a residential care home, as she had previously planned, because she feels confident enough to stay living in her own home. Shane has also given Kate, who lives in Oxford, much greater peace of mind about her mother’s health and safety.
Kate said “everyone needs a Shane” – and I agree. I think everyone who uses local NHS and care should have single care co-ordinator to arrange support around their needs and help them stay living independently in their own homes for as long as possible.