The unenlightened Archers

Posted on August 3rd, by geoff in CT blog. 4 comments

By Cathy Butterworth
Independent nurse consultant

I am a long time listener to The Archers on Radio 4. All of us who work in the care home sector will be used to the constant barrage of adverse publicity about care homes, much of it false, but for The Archers to sink to tabloid press levels has made me very angry.

Listening to the Omnibus edition on Sunday, 19th July, we first had the storyline with the character Christine considering moving to a care home and this gave as always, but incorrectly, a totally negative view about living in a care home. She was advised by her character friends that she was not ready ‘to give up yet’. As we all know, many people do in fact have a new lease of life when they move to a care home. They feel a sense of security and are no longer lonely and isolated.

Secondly and more importantly the writers have just got it wrong with the story of the character Heather’s stroke and discussion about what comes next. It is outrageous that her daughter, Ruth, arranges for her mother’s house to be valued without telling her. It is outrageous that Ruth’s husband, David, suggests that Ruth should arrange a care home without telling her mother. It is outrageous that Ruth’s friend, Usha, (who apparently is a solicitor) should tell Ruth to ‘get’ a power of attorney so she can make decisions on her mother’s behalf and all of this to help Ruth.

Where is Heather in all of this? This may have been the scenario in years gone by, but not now. Our systems are not perfect by any means, but there has been no mention of any discharge planning arrangements from hospital. What is most disturbing about this story line for Heather is that it completely ignores the legislation we have in place to support people like Heather. The Mental Capacity Act (2005) requires that Heather is involved and that no decisions are made without due process, especially if she lacks the mental capacity to decide for herself. But nothing I have heard in the story suggests that she does lack the mental capacity to decide where she goes when she leaves hospital. The next piece of legislation is the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) (2009) and these safeguards ensure that a person cannot be ‘put’ or ‘placed’ in a care home without due process. And lastly, one person cannot ‘get’ a Lasting Power of Attorney. The person, in this case Heather, has to give this authority to another person. In terms of discharge planning, the Care Act (2014) now gives a clear pathway as to how a person in Heather’s situation should be assessed and helped to decide on a plan of action.

I am sure there will be many people who are becoming increasingly anxious as this story unfolds if it continues down this track. They will believe that another person can sell their house, put them in a care home and take control of their finances, all behind their back, without consulting them.

Heather’s stroke and need for support could have been a great opportunity to inform the public about the current legislation and to help allay fears, rather than increase them by giving wrong information. Why does a popular programme like The Archers, which is listened to by five million people per week on average, need to perpetuate the scaremongering tactics of the popular press? I have written to the BBC with my concerns. I look forward to their response.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

4 responses to “The unenlightened Archers”

  1. Tony Stein says:

    Sadly Cathy, it’s because fear ‘sells’. The public seem to take a peculiar delight in hearing shocking tales of terror. I used to think it was good journalism to highlight bad practice but now I know it’s just the way the media works. Have you noticed how some people slow down around traffic accidents (Lord alone knows what ghouls walk among us) – shocking headlines or horror stories draw listeners/readers like moths to a flame.
    You are quite right that the media should see it as a duty to demonstrate balance but I suspect I’ll be a very old man before that time comes.
    I would also add to your note that my own organisation is often involved in picking up poorly run services, we raise many Safeguarding cases involving relatives ‘taking matters into their own hands’ with little regard for the person at the centre of it. It always occurs to me though that this would have happened whether the person was in a care home or not – at least in the home the resident has us to look out for them!

  2. Irene Gray says:

    A powerful commentary Cathy, thank you. Please keep us posted on any response you get from the BBC. Collectively we need to continue to fight these negative and incorrect portrayals. It will be a long battle I know, but we have to keep in the battle to win in.

    thank you

  3. John Burton says:

    I think you are being a bit unfair to The Archers. Jack was very well cared for in the care home and it’s beginning to look as if Heather might have found that her interim care in a home is working out well for her and she may well stay . . . or even move down to Borsetshire to be near to family!
    Ruth is accurately reflecting the ordinary anxiety, dilemmas and worries of a daughter in her position. I reckon that the producer and writers are taking quite good advice. We can’t expect The Archers to educate listeners in the professional and legal technicalities of residential care any more than we can expect them to teach the public to be farmers.
    Complaining about how the media treat social care doesn’t really get us anywhere . . . like sailors complaining about the weather, it doesn’t have the slightest effect. We can’t change the weather but we can change social care.

  4. I agree this is infuriating, not least because The Archers will reach parts of the population the Daily Mail never could. It’s also really lazy aside from being inaccurate – disappointing, you would think, given that they’re so keen to emphasise the accuracy of their farming knowledge/research.

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