Bemused patients and their families are turning to Citizens Advice Bureaux to help them get to grips with the community care system, new data shows. Nearly a third of the 74,000 health related queries dealt with by CAB in England and Wales in 2011/12 were about problems with community care which covers a range of services from meals on wheels to home help.
Availability of community care services was the biggest issue with almost 4,000 queries. Charges and payments was the second largest cause for concern with over 2,500 problems.
Costs for other health services were also creating conundrums for some patients and their families. Overall 13% of health issues dealt with by CAB were about NHS costs and a further 5,700 queries were about charges for other services including residential care. The quality of care received by patients from a range of health services was behind 2,600 queries and there were over 3,600 issues of clients wanting to make complaint about local health services.
Plus one in ten of all problems were with residential care.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:
“Local CAB are often the first point of call for people trying to negotiate community care. It can be hard for people to know where to start and is often made extra difficult when the situation is urgent and they feel under pressure. But bureaux can help people understand the system and give practical advice on how to organise a carer or figure out a nursing home’s charges. And if a bureau identifies a persistent problem with a service or system, it can raise the issue with the local health services and help them resolve it so other patients and their families don’t have to face the same challenge.”
A third of CAB clients are disabled or have long term health conditions and around 40% of bureaux outreaches are based in a health setting – from GP surgeries to mental health services and hospitals to community health hubs. Plus over one third of bureaux carry out visits to people in hospital. This puts CAB advisers in the right place at the right time when it comes to supporting patients and their families at difficult times. Bude Citizens Advice Bureau is based at Neetside.