What if users’ reviews of care homes were available online?

In the four years since Patient Opinion launched with the proposition that ‘your story can change the NHS,’ its website has become an indispensable arm of the health service. With 400 opinions posted a month and half a million page views, it’s the fastest, most effective way to register a complaint or offer praise. Patient Opinion undertakes to get your feedback to the people who are in a position to do something about it, and is seen by medical staff and managers as integral to improving services. It is also viewed gratefully by many patients, who see complaints dealt with in a way that would have been unlikely if they’d written a letter and waited 28 days for a reply, only to get one from someone who wasn’t involved in their care.

So could the same model be applied to care homes? Transparency and publicity have worked for hospitals: why not for some of our most hidden institutions? Continue reading

What happens when you’re old and gay?

Opening Doors

Some of the members of Opening Doors, from left: Donald Black, Tom Devine, Alexander Duncan, Willie Millar, Lyndon Scarffe

Angelo Marcellini is 75 and lives in sheltered housing in London. When he’s in the lift, his fellow residents won’t join him. If he comes in, they leave. Only two of the households on his floor speak to him. Angelo is gay. The managers of his sheltered housing are evangelical Christians and they won’t help because they don’t like him either.

Many older people are having to find new ways to live, but perhaps none as obviously as gays and lesbians. Previous generations of older gay people weren’t out; they were invisible throughout their lives and expected to stay that way when they became old or vulnerable. But for the current generation, that’s simply not good enough. Civil partnerships and equality legislation have changed Britain. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people know they are entitled to to be acknowledged for themselves. They no longer have to pretend to be something else.

The progress that has been made is the direct result of the campaigning and suffering of the older generation; by rights gay elders should now be celebrated by a society that has finally found itself at ease with their sexuality. But when I went to see a group of older gay men who meet to discuss issues affecting older gay people and asked what these were, they said: ‘persecution, depression, suicide, homophobia.’ Continue reading