Could care for Lancashire's elderly be delivered differently in future?

Providers have been told of the county's intentions for elderly care
Providers have been told of the county's intentions for elderly care

There is an over-reliance on residential care in Lancashire, with more people likely to be drawn into long-term help and support than in some other parts of the country.

That is one of the messages from a new document drawn up by Lancashire County Council designed to advise care providers about how the market for their services is set to develop.

The report, which has been endorsed by the authority’s cabinet, lays out a planned shift from so-called “bed-based “ services to more individually-focused packages of care delivered in a person’s home or in the community.

Currently, almost a third of County Hall’s £498m budget for adult social services is spent on residential placements. There are more than 400 care homes across the county, 17 of which are operated by the county council.

But the document describes a planned move towards non-residential services, including the promotion of direct payments – that is where individuals receive a personal budget for their care which they can spend however they see fit. Around two thirds of the 4,900 people in Lancashire who are given direct payments use them to employ a personal assistant to help them within their own homes.

Increased use of technology to help people maintain their independence – known as telecare – is also to be promoted, with the county council spending £4.5m on such systems this year and pledging to help anybody who wants to purchase the necessary equipment for themselves.

Greater use of existing daytime support services to keep people socially active and “intermediate care” – to prevent hospital admissions or aid quicker discharges – are other key elements of the plan.

“We are moving away from traditional [ways of delivering] services – saying that we want so many hours [of care] for so many people – and towards a more holistic view about how we can best support a person’s health and wellbeing,” Conservative member for adult services, Graham Gooch, told a cabinet meeting.

Deputy leader of the Labour opposition group, John Fillis, said that while consultation with providers was necessary, a discussion with care service users seemed to be “lacking”.

“To them, this will look like a top-down approach,” he said.

But council leader Geoff Driver said that service users would be consulted “when we have something to consult on”, based on feedback from providers.

The county council is considering extending the length of contracts for care providers to up to 10 years to help them better plan their commitments and also offer greater flexibility.