Treating people with respect and dignity, no matter what their disability, background or condition, are the touchstones of a civilised society.
In the year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of our amazing NHS, it seems fitting to announce reforms that reflect the spirit of these values which have sustained the world’s most successful and respected health and care system.
The government has announced legislation to transform the way vulnerable people are protected in care homes and hospitals. In particular, we are committed to removing the barriers and local bureaucracy delaying or preventing assessments of individuals who do not have the mental capacity to make independent decisions about their care.
The reforms relate to the use of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS). These are detailed and prescriptive assessments, involving numerous clinical and care experts, and can be time consuming and burdensome for families and individuals.
Depriving someone of their liberty is a step that is never taken lightly and always with the intent to prevent harm to the individual. Even in cases where a person has impaired capacity and is unable to make decisions, it is a duty of care for all involved to respect their needs and wishes as far as they can be determined.
Which is why we need to reform a system that is currently bureaucratic, unwieldly and out of step with modern healthcare provision. It places a huge burden on adult social care system and diverts resources away from frontline care. It neither supports improved outcomes for people, nor their experience of care.
Personally, I don’t want the safety and comfort of anyone close to me delayed or compromised because of red tape. For too long, individuals, families and their carers have experienced a process that feels ‘done to them’ rather than with their full consent and engagement.
Indeed, these changes put NHS and social care colleagues at the heart of the process, reducing costly referrals and duplications of process. They will also engender greater peace of mind for friends, families and carers, giving them added reassurance that care is delivered when and where it is needed – and with their loved ones’ wishes respected and reflected in that care.
These reforms increase protection for particularly vulnerable people such as those living with dementia, brain injury or autism. Legal safeguards and redress have also been enhanced with improved access to the justice system and a renewed emphasis on our fundamental human rights.
This shift in responsibility has another huge benefit too. Our proposed changes could save the system around £200m. That’s an awful lot of time and money saved to plough back into frontline services and other schemes designed to ease the burden on our health and care system.
In the year when we celebrate seven decades of the greatest health and care system in the world, these reforms – and others like them – will make sure future generations are celebrating for many decades to come.