Charity saves the NHS £3 for every £1 invested with volunteer-led outreach service
Amidst growing concern about cuts to funding for adult social care, one charity is working with the NHS Clinical Commission Groups of North Staffordshire to provide essential support to older people in Stoke. CareLink is a telephone befriending service for anyone over 50 who is registered with a Stoke GP and feels isolated and lonely. Staff and volunteers build friendly relationships with clients over the phone, giving them someone to talk to whilst also monitoring their health and wellbeing.
Linda Stone, CareLink Manager, says: “There are some shocking statistics that really highlight the need for a service likes ours. For instance, half of all elderly people in the UK cite television as their main source of company. CareLink helps to plug the gap by making regular calls to older people, up to five times a week. We are there to make sure that they know someone cares and is looking out for them. They share their news, interests and reminiscences with us, and we talk about how to stay well with reminders about medication and meal times.
“Christmas can be especially hard for those of our clients who are spending it alone, when all around they see reminders of happy families sitting around the table.”
Barrie is 79 and was referred to the service in October after his wife sadly died. Having been her full-time carer for many years, Barrie felt lost and sometimes suicidal at the prospect of facing life on his own.
“When my wife died I didn’t know what to do with myself and wasn’t sure how long I could go on living. Since I started receiving calls from CareLink things are still really hard, but it has helped me so much to have contact with people who are like friends. The volunteers ring me every day and give me someone to talk to when I don't feel so good, and someone to share with when something good happens. While I was caring for my wife I neglected my own health but now CareLink are encouraging and helping me to start looking after myself. I was really dreading Christmas this year but getting the friendly phone calls from CareLink throughout the holiday period made life a bit more bearable.”
With a move towards a ‘Home First’ policy of care, the focus for CareLink is to help people maintain their independence and their health away from a clinical setting.
Dave Sanzeri, Head of Commissioning for the CCGs, said: "The CareLink befriending service helps some of Stoke's loneliest and most vulnerable older people and does a fantastic job of supporting them, including helping them with their health needs. By picking up on problems before they turn into crises, we are able to help people remain healthier for longer, and save money for the NHS."
Linda continues: “In under two years since CareLink was set up, we’ve helped prevent almost 500 medical interventions, saving the NHS £3 for every £1 invested in the service. I’m so proud of our volunteers, who gave up time over Christmas to make calls from home to those on their own. We couldn’t provide the service without them. And of course, we could always use more!”
For more information on CareLink, its services and how to volunteer, visit www.saltbox.org.uk/carelink