H&F Council is failing to protect elderly residents from shingles

shingles250,000 people a year in the UK suffer from shingles. It is a very unpleasant illness. Victims can die from it, although that is rare – about one in a thousand cases.  But what is commonplace – approximately 100,000 cases a year – is to develop “postherpetic pain” when the virus damages a nerve. The pain is typically excruciating. 20 per cent of shingles patients remain in pain after three months. For those admitted to hospital the average stay is 14.6 days. More often the infection means the elderly can stay at home but are unable to look after themselves.

The good news is that there is a shingles vaccine (called Zostavax) that is available. There is a phased introduction. It is currently available free on the NHS for those who were 70, 71, 72, 78 or 79 years old on the 1st September, 2015. If you are eligible – or you know someone who is – it is something to be contact your GP about.

Apparently it costs the NHS around £55 a shot – which is rather high for a vaccine. But not only will it avoid a lot of misery, it is also good value for the taxpayer.

The bad news is that the take up in Hammersmith and Fulham is less than half the national average. Between September 2014 and May 2015 it was 27.7% in Hammersmith and Fulham for the routine vaccination at age 70 years. The uptake for England was 52.8%. For 78-year-olds it was 25.5% against 53.8% nationally, 21.0% against 52.5% nationally.

These figures are a disaster. The statistics represent a terrible human toll. There will be vastly more misery for the old people of our borough from this disease than for the country as a whole. This is avoidable.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council is doing nothing about it. The Public Health Department tells me:

“The shingles vaccination programme is commissioned by NHS England (NHSE), who is responsible for the commissioning of local provision of immunisation services and the implementation of programmes through general practice and other providers. As this is not a local authority responsibility no financial contribution has been allocated from the H&F public health budget specifically to increase the shingles vaccination uptake rate.”

Remember the Council spends £22.7 million a year on Public Health – most of this spending is currently wasted. Also consider that this is a Council that spends £88 million a year on adult social care – including providing carers for those residents unable to look after themselves due to shingles. So the Council’s indifference is not only callous but financially inept.

Other councils have been active on this – which may partly explain the higher vaccination rates.

The Council should use Public Health funds to write to all qualifying residents to urge them to take the jab. They should back this up with visits. It should be made as easy as possible – for instance offering the vaccination on site in sheltered housing accommodation and indeed in residents’ private homes. What about also paying for the vaccine itself for borough residents aged 73-77?

Cllr Lukey: Indefensible

Cllr Lukey: Indefensible

According to the last census the borough population is 183,000 with around 3% of us aged 70-79.  So perhaps 5,000, and perhaps 2,000 aged 73-77.  Of course not all of them will take the jab – it is a matter of personal choice after all. But supposing half of them did at a cost to the Council of £50 a time and thus a total bill of £50,000. I suspect that would be money rather better spent that most of current £22.7 million current Public Health budget – with teams of people writing reports for other people to file.

I have written to Cllr Vivienne Lukey, the Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, asking for the policy to change. She has a wide remit and I actually think it is understandable if she was not aware of the current policy on shingles vaccination. But I do hope that having been made aware of the policy she will not seek to defend what seems to me to be indefensible.

Cllr Joe Carlebach: My role as Hammersmith and Fulham Vulnerable Peoples Champion

joecarCllr Joe Carlebach represents Avonmore and Brook Green Ward

I was very pleased to be offered and accept the new role of Vulnerable Peoples Champion in Hammersmith and Fulham.As many who know me appreciate that this is an area that has been an interest (some would argue a passion) of mine for many years.

This role covers a number of key areas and is designed to positively influence the care and treatment of vulnerable adults and children in our Borough.It encompasses Housing, Adult Social Care and Children’s Services. The remit of the role will also cover Policing and Health Care both in primary and secondary care settings.

I intend that the role will be a combination of identifying general issues where vulnerable people and their treatment falls short of best practice as well as the pursing of a number of individual cases from across the borough where vulnerable people have been particularly let down by the state (local and national). I intend to do my best to do this in partnership with others as such ‘wrongs’ are often done as the result of genuine mistakes and misunderstandings. Where this is not the case I will make it clear in my advocacy for the individual(s) effected.

It is my intention that this role will help vulnerable people improve their day to day living ensuring equal treatment and respect by the state and its representatives for all irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation or disability. I believe this will help facilitate the core Conservative principles of the fare treatment, aspiration and social mobility for all.

This role has been established by the Conservative Group and is effective from the start of this year. Where appropriate in this role I will co-ordinate with all Councillors and LBHF Officers, colleagues in the Tri Borough structure, the NHS in West London and the Metropolitan Police.

On a personal note I would like to dedicate my time in this role to my Grandparents who embodied the precious values of compassion, understanding and empathy for all people no matter who or what they may be. A set of values they lived by and which ultimately lead to their tragic and violent death at the hands of Hitler and his fascists.

Cllr Lucy Ivimy: Home care charging should not be free for the wealthy

ivimyA guest post from Cllr Lucy Ivimy

The residents of Hammersmith & Fulham who receive home care services are amongst the most vulnerable of us. They may be disabled or, frequently, elderly and infirm, becoming mentally less capable of coping than they used to be, all too often alone or with a distant and busy family that cannot give much assistance, often worried about money. The duty of the Council to provide excellent care for them is so clear that it does not need to be stated.

With the increasing fragmentation of the family and the pressures of modern life, I fear that the number of residents here and across the country needing home care can only increase. With that in mind, there are three important points:

  • We must ensure the quality of this help. The new Care Act will impose statutory obligations and penalties on us if we don’t – and rightly so.
  • We must ensure that the most vulnerable, those who need help the most, receive it.
  • We must also ensure that there is the funding necessary to pay for it.

Under the present means tested system three quarters of those receiving home care pay nothing for the service. Only those who are judged to have sufficient income to pay for it are charged. I question whether providing this service free to those who do have the income to pay for it, will help achieve the important objectives of the service. There is a concern that offering this as a free service will be diverting funds away from the most vulnerable towards the wealthy.

It may also lead to an increase in demand from those who could pay as the articulate well to do demand services for themselves or their parents, while those most in need are least able to fight for themselves. It must be a concern that offering this service free will stretch the adult social care budget further than its resources.

Concerns have been raise that those on moderate incomes, who need assistance, are being put off asking for it because of the cost of paying for it. There is certainly justification for reviewing the means testing system to ensure that does not happen. With this proviso, we cannot support making home care for those who can afford it, free.