A minute to midnight for Health and Social Care: can Integrated Retirement Communities rewind the clock?

Whilst attending the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) conference at the start of November we were fortunate enough to be addressed by the newly appointed Minister of State for Care and Mental Health – Gillian Keegan MP. During a refreshing, interesting and open address the Minister confirmed a White Paper is due before the end of the year from which the vision should be developed and indicated that private investment needs to be made more attractive.  She ended by suggesting that we are at a pivotal time in the development and reform of our Health and Social Care system and, like the environment,  perhaps we are at our own “Minute to Midnight” moment.     

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the strengths and the flaws in our older people social care system. These are well documented and I am sure that to those familiar with the industry I don’t need to repeat them.  Whilst looking back at the last 25 months in 25 minutes the opening address of the ARCO conference shared findings of a RE-COV research project looking at the response of (the new term) Integrated Retirement Communities during the pandemic showing IRCs have dealt with Covid-19 in a safer way than other, comparable facilities.

The whole premise of IRCs is to enable people to live independent, healthier and more sociable lives for longer in a supported holistic environment. It has been proven that residents in IRC require less interaction and support from the NHS, from GP visits to hospital admissions and also they are like likely to be admitted into residential or nursing care homes earlier in their life by the provision of option on site care.

As trailed in the conference and as set out in ARCO’s most recent report, Putting the “care” in Housing-with-Care released on 16 November shows that there is £5.6bn in possible savings for the Health and Social Care System if just 250,000 over-65’s lived in an IRC by 2030. So why aren’t these scheme’s being green-lit everywhere?

The answer is many faceted and complex (as always) but one thing is clear if we are to turn back the time on our midnight countdown we need the government to intercede to make obtaining (though a change in planning), building (through government initiatives) and marketing (though regulation and confidence building) IRCs easier, quicker and simpler.  If they don’t then the midnight bell will toll on the Cinderella Sector and the government could be left holding the pumpkin.

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