Social work and end-of-life care

Social work is important in end-of-life care

Archive for the ‘healthcare’ Category

NHS competition regulator Monitor inadequately tries to show that competition and coordination go together

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140830 IntegrationCoordinating NHS and social services has been a policy and practice for decades, arising because if you coordinate everything into one organisation, you get an oversized blob. In any case, social services and the NHS have to be separated in some way, because the government would otherwise be forced by the political obligation to  provide health care to extend that to free social services, and they’re never going to do that. (You ask: why? Partly because of the cost but mainly because social care helps people with the problems of everyday living, not something exceptional and definable like an illness, and government doesn’t want to pay for what people would normally do for themselves, like getting up, getting bathed and getting fed).

Monitor, the NHS regulator which is supposed to ensure that competition works, is issuing a lot of guidance about coordination. The political reason for this is that they need to show that the competitive market that they promote does not prevent coordination. To do this, they have latched onto the idea of personalisation, or person-centred services: the idea is that services slot together around people’s needs, so they naturally coordinate.

So in its requirements of providers (a sort of contract that NHS providers are supposed to adhere to), it has an integrated care condition:

The Integrated Care Condition states that NHS provider licence holders should not do anything that could reasonably be regarded as detrimental to enabling integrated care. It also includes a patient interest test which means that the obligations only apply to the extent that they are in the interests of people who use healthcare services.

The problem is that the aim of removing barriers to coordination does not actively make it possible, and what NHS providers do is not the major barrier – lack of resources and options in service provision is. But the requirement not to do anything to the detriment of coordination provides a potential protest and advocacy point for people who want to change something that an NHS provider is doing.

Link to the Monitor Guidance, which also has lots of useful links to other documents on integration.

Written by Malcolm Payne

2 September 2014 at 1:26 pm

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards: review the constraints and get external reviews

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More on the recent Supreme Court decisions on Deprivation of Liberties Safeguards; this legal commentary provides helpful guidance to local authorities, care home providers, hospices, hospitals and the like on how they should review their practice and decisions.

The helpful point is: ‘focus on the constraints’, not on the overall circumstances that a patient is in. And get independent external reviews done of long-standing arrangements; it is easy to get seduced by continuing with arrangements that seem to be working well.

Deprivation of liberty safeguards: “A gilded cage is still a cage” | Kennedys.

A gilded cage is still a cage – Supreme Court deprivation of liberties decision

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A Supreme Court decision on some of the most discussed of Deprivation of Liberties cases is now reported. A legal commentary indicates that these represent major changes in the DOLS law; the legal commentary suggests:

There are likely to be thousands of people who were not considered to be deprived of their liberty yesterday who will be today in light of this judgment.

It recommends that all local authorities and NHS organisations should review their caseloads; they will probably have to issue DOLS documentation in numerous cases where it was not thought necessary.

The judgement by the respected Lady Hale reviews the history of DOLS law in the UK and European Court of Human Rights decisions, some of which took place after previous lower courts in the UK had decided the cases in question here. It’s a very good primer on the existing law, and of course, as always with Lady Hale, very clearly written and calling on the original sources. No unnecessary legal jargon here.

Here are some useful quotations:

(at 34) People who lack the capacity to make (or implement) their own decisions about where to live may justifiably be deprived of their liberty in their own best interests. They may well be a good deal happier and better looked after if they are. But that does not mean that they have not been deprived of their liberty. We should not confuse the question of the quality of the arrangements which have been made with the question of whether these arrangements constitute a deprivation of liberty.

(at 35) …it is quite clear that a person may be deprived of his liberty without knowing it. An unconscious or sleeping person may not know that he has been locked in a cell, but he has still been deprived of his liberty. A mentally disordered person who has been kept in a cupboard under the stairs (a not uncommon occurrence in days gone by) may not appreciate that there is any alternative way to live, but he has still been deprived of his liberty. We do not have any difficulty in recognising these situations as a deprivation of liberty. We should not let the comparative benevolence of the living arrangements with which we are concerned blind us to their essential character if indeed that constitutes a deprivation of liberty.

(at 36) The whole point about human rights is their universal character. The rights set out in the European Convention are to be guaranteed to “everyone” (article 1). They are premised on the inherent dignity of all human beings whatever their frailty or flaws. The same philosophy underpins the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)…

(at 37) …what is the essential character of a deprivation of liberty? It is common ground that three components can be derived from Storck, paras 74 and 89, confirmed in Stanev, paras 117 and 120, as follows: (a) the objective component of confinement in a particular restricted place for a not negligible length of time; (b) the subjective component of lack of valid consent; and (c) the attribution of responsibility to the state…

45. In my view, it is axiomatic that people with disabilities, both mental and physical, have the same human rights as the rest of the human race. It may be that those rights have sometimes to be limited or restricted because of their disabilities, but the starting point should be the same as that for everyone else. This flows inexorably from the universal character of human rights, founded on the inherent dignity of all human beings, and is confirmed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Far from disability entitling the state to deny such people human rights: rather it places upon the state (and upon others) the duty to make reasonable accommodation to cater for the special needs of those with disabilities.

46. Those rights include the right to physical liberty, which is guaranteed by article 5 of the European Convention. This is not a right to do or to go where one pleases. It is a more focussed right, not to be deprived of that physical liberty. But, as it seems to me, what it means to be deprived of liberty must be the same for everyone, whether or not they have physical or mental disabilities. If it would be a deprivation of my liberty to be obliged to live in a particular place, subject to constant monitoring and control, only allowed out with close supervision, and unable to move away without permission even if such an opportunity became available, then it must also be a deprivation of the liberty of a disabled person. The fact that my living arrangements are comfortable, and indeed make my life as enjoyable as it could possibly be, should make no difference. A gilded cage is still a cage.

And even a good quality, but over-controlling, social care provision aimed at providing for a disabled person’s well-being still deprives them of their liberty, so you have to apply the safeguards.

For social workers and providers of social care, this makes it clear that even if what you are doing is for someone’s protection, and even if disability may lead to concern for someone’s safety and well-being, close supervision and restriction in the freedom to decide where you can go is still a deprivation of liberty, and requires the use of the safeguards.

Link to legal commentary: Supreme Court hands down decision on the joint appeals of Cheshire West and P&Q (MIG & MEG) – the Court ruled that all three were deprived of their liberty – Lexology.

Link to the Supreme Court Judgment Look for 19th March 2014 and click on ‘judgment’ in the right hand column in the cases of P and P and Q to get a pdf; the pdf is the same in both cases, since the judgment covers both cases. P and Q is what has been known as MIG and MEG in earlier proceedings.

Written by Malcolm Payne

21 March 2014 at 12:40 pm

Simple information on cancer spread

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20140224 Cancer choicesI came across a useful article for lawyers who may be dealing with claims for medical negligence; many social workers might find it of interest, because it explains simply how cancer develops and the stages of treatment and care.

Link to simple article on cancer.

How cancer spreads is broadly predictable, depending on your age. The political point is that the government is quick to blame slow referrals for diagnosis to what is claimed to be the UK’s poor results on outcomes of treatment for cancer. There is something called a TNM (Tumour – lymph Node development – Metastases) score, which indicates how far the cancer has spread – more spreading means less likelihood of successful treatment. The spread of the tumour is measured on a 1-4 scale – 4 being the widest spread. After that, cancer spreads to lymph nodes, from which it moves on to other organs in the body.

As the article says, doctors are supposed to follow the NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidance on cancer treatment, and there is also NICE guidance on how a cancer service should be run. Unfortunately, these are written for doctors so they are largely incomprehensible, but here’s a link:

NICE Cancer website

The best place for general guidance about medical conditions for normal people is the NHS Choices website

NHS Choices Cancer website.

Written by Malcolm Payne

25 February 2014 at 11:21 am

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Seeing beauty in people gives them dignity – a good principle for good practice

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140222 Nursing and public healthBecause I’m involved in international social work, I often receive publications from foreign lands, although equally often they are in foreign languages which I don’t understand, or in the English as written by people who don’t quite get it right. One editorial board I contribute to is for a journal published from Wrocław in Poland called Nursing and Public Health Quarterly (well actually Pielęgniartswo I Zdrowie Publiczne but I thought it would be unhelpful to provide a non-translated title). I originally got involved, because the School of Public Health in Wrocław is very involved in palliative care.

This quarter’s papers include a really interesting brief paper, with an English abstract, which argues that beauty is a mystery, but that seeing it in people accords them the greatest possible human dignity. The writer has a set of questions for his nursing/medical students: they have three minutes to answer each, so he gets an unconsidered response. They are:

  • What is good?
  • What is beauty?
  • What is freedom?
  • What is love?
  • What is dignity?

I think these are a good set of questions to ask beginning practitioners in health and social care, to get them to think about the objectives and values inherent in their work. In fact, we could all ask ourselves these questions regularly.

You can read the abstract here.

If you can read Polish you can go the the journal through this link; its articles are online – there are also occasional English articles.

Written by Malcolm Payne

24 February 2014 at 11:03 am

Good nursing and care for relatives in the NHS

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Malvern Community Hospital sideAnd good care for dying people is not only available in big urban hospitals. Our uncle Don (aged 95) was recently cared for at the new Malvern Community Hospital in the last weeks of his life. It has 18 GP beds and a minor injuries unit. With her extensive experience of palliative care, Margaret says with appreciation that the nursing for patients and support for relatives was a good as any hospice.

Link to Malvern Community Hospital website

Written by Malcolm Payne

15 January 2014 at 12:15 pm

Good care for dying people in NHS hospitals is still possible

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140113 Death in hospA thoughtful article in the Guardian by Julie Myerson, who suggests that often in the NHS you can get wonderful care for dying people, even in the biggest urban hospitals and busy wards. It is a story of effective nursing and good communication with relatives in a busy London hospital. And, incidentally, the hospital that Cicely Saunders started out from in her experience as a social worker which eventually led to her contribution to the origins of the hospice movement. Good to see that the medical and nursing skills involved still exist.

Written by Malcolm Payne

14 January 2014 at 12:06 pm