As a retired social worker I have respect and admiration for the
professionalism of social workers, doctors and other health care
workers. Therefore, I was shocked by my 95-year-old mother’s
experience following her admission to hospital with a fractured hip
Not only was she denied the right to return home to recover, but
her social worker reached this conclusion and made the
recommendation that my mother should be transferred to a nursing
home directly from hospital without ever meeting her. This decision
was supported by the continuing care panel, whose chair is a
Not only do I consider this bad practice but I was alarmed that
such far-reaching decisions should be made without allowing my
mother time to heal her wounds or assessing how she would function
in her familiar environment. The fact that even a young, healthy
person takes at least six weeks to heal a broken bone – and that a
frail older person needs much longer – did not seem to enter the
equation. Added to this, it was well documented on her care plan
that my mother’s needs had not changed significantly since before
her accident – in fact she had been discharged from hospital two
years earlier with greater needs and had managed to live at home.
When all my efforts to negotiate had failed, I felt I had no choice
but to legally challenge the social services department concerned.
Eventually, a High Court judge ordered her return home but only
after she had languished in a valuable hospital bed for five months
in an increasingly distressed and unhappy state. To our great
relief, the Court of Appeal has recently quashed the decision that
my mother should move into a nursing home.
At the heart of this matter lies the artificial boundary between
social and nursing care. This causes untold distress for many older
people who are often passed around like parcels in order to satisfy
funding criteria. It is time the government revisited, and
implemented, the findings of the Royal Commission on Long Term
Care. Older people deserve better.
Linda Goldsmith worked in social services for more than 30