Health charity in NHS warning

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Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland says third sector organisations need long-term funding to help the NHS avoid a permanent state of crisis 

1st June 2020 by Gareth Jones 1 Comment

Health charities need urgent support in order to be able to support the NHS through the coronavirus crisis and beyond.

Scotland’s largest charity supporting the NHS to care for people with chest, heart and stroke conditions – including Covid-19 – is calling for the Scottish Government to set out a long-term survival package and strategy for health charities. 

Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) warns that without health charities in Scotland easing pressures on the NHS, there could be a “permanent state of crisis” as services cope with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The charity has said that without support from the third sector, NHS and social care services will be under considerable pressure post-Covid for months, probably years to come.

In particular, it highlights a significant backlog of cancelled operations and procedures; patients continuing to need treatment for Covid-19 until a vaccine is found; services needing to contend with regular winter pressures and Covid-19 during the winter of 2020 and A&E services returning to the level of pressure they were under before the pandemic.

CHSS fears that without a joined-up approach between NHS, social care services and charities, essential services and staff will be in permanent crisis mode - risking patient and staff safety as well as morale.

Charities like Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland are fighting for survival due to the Covid-19 pandemic – losing £500,000 a month in fundraising income with their shops being closed and fundraising events being cancelled.  

The charity’s Hospital to Home service provides vital support to patients living with chest, heart and stroke conditions – including Covid-19 – as they return home from hospital and back into the community. The service equips people with the tools and support they need to live well at home and in the community thus reducing hospital readmissions and pressures on the NHS. 

For years, the charity has been operating its Hospital to Home service for stroke survivors in four health boards and a partial service in a further six. More recently, the Scottish Government funded IT costs for the charity’s service to extend support to people with lung conditions – including Covid-19. And working in partnership with NHS Highland the charity has also implemented a Hospital to Home service for people living with heart conditions. 

The charity wants to expand this service across all 14 health boards, using its expert nurses and community support teams to protect NHS and social care capacity to deal with more complex cases. They believe this approach will free up capacity and provide a better care experience for people across Scotland, and estimate the service will benefit around 37,900 people discharged with chest, heart and stroke conditions each year - helping up to 100,000 people if the wider impact on family and carers is taken into account.  

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive of CHSS, said: “Charities like ours are standing shoulder to shoulder with our NHS heroes throughout this pandemic – and we want to keep doing that in the future.

“We have the expertise and support available to help the NHS and health and social care services as they continue to deal with the impact of Covid-19. However, without a joined-up approach between NHS, social care and the third sector, essential services and staff could face a permanent state of crisis. 

“We need the Scottish Government to take the lead on this. They have shown commitment to helping charities and services step up during the pandemic. We now need to see a strategy and package of support to make sure health charities are still around to ease pressures on the NHS for the longer term.      

“People with chest, heart and stroke conditions tell us that the period returning home from hospital is the most fragile time in their recovery – both physically and mentally. The work of charities like ours makes that transition easier. Without that support, more people will end up back at the hospital door needing more serious treatment.” 

Robert Baldock, 55 from East Lothian, knows firsthand the huge difference that Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s services can make after he suffered a life-changing stroke.

“My life completely changed after my stroke,” he said. “I now live with acute dysphasia (I know what I want to say but have difficulty at times finding the words) and severe verbal dyspraxia (when the words are there but I have difficulty motor planning to create the appropriate sounds). All of this makes communicating especially difficult. Often, it’s easier for me to draw or write a reply. Not being able to talk or make myself understood has been so very difficult to adjust to. This combined with limited mobility and not being able to drive have been extremely hard things to deal with and accept.

“Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland provided vital help at a time I needed it most. They have made a huge impact on my post-stroke life. The volunteer from the charity, Fiona has been a great source of information, friendship and support. Being around people with shared experiences, who know and understand what you are going through has been a massive benefit. Aphasia and dyspraxia are hugely isolating conditions.”

4th June 2020 by JOHN F ROBINS

There is no doubt that currently charities provide a great deal of important, perhaps essential, health care in Scotland and the rest of the UK. This question must be asked: Should we have to rely on charities to provide such services or should they be supplied directly by the tax-funded National Health Service? Charities often have well, perhaps highly paid, admin staff who rely on unpaid volunteers and public donations to fund their wages and do the work of the charity. Duplicate that spending by the myriad of charities in the health care sector and you must question if the current system is the best way to provide health care? Perhaps the time has come for health care to be provided by the Health Service and let the charity shops and can shakers raise the money for HS2 and the replacement of Trident. Health charities help people but perhaps more importantly they help politicians pay lip service to the NHS.