‘And all is well, tooroo lalay’

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

If it’s good to be cheerful in adversity, then anyone involved in social care has a lot of reasons to whistle a happy tune. Never has the structural and philosophical gulf between health and social care been made so starkly apparent as it has now, by the Government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the virus ever made landfall on our shores, it was already well-established that the greatest risk to life was among elderly people, particularly those with underlying medical conditions. Care home operators took sensible steps, banning visitors and shielding their residents as best they could. The Government sat on its hands and did nothing.

Then we have the omission of care home deaths from official mortality figures, with doctors apparently being encouraged not to mention Covid-19 on the death certificates of those who have died in care homes.

Then we have the PPE fiasco; social care workers should have been provided with it from Day One, to lessen the chance of them becoming reservoirs of contagion and carrying it into their care communities and into the wider community. Again care home operators, in the absence of any initiative from government, took their own steps to access whatever PPE they could find.

Then we have the debacle of testing. Were we to assume that an untested care worker is somehow a lower risk to their communities than a healthcare worker? The Government is playing catch-up, with both PPE and testing, but it’s a little late in the day.

Then we have the absurdity of patient transfers. Care home operators would like to accept placements from hospitals, and so reduce the strain on the NHS but their first duty must be to consider the welfare of their existing residents, so testing of patients would be a given, wouldn’t it? As would the extension of legal indemnities, under the Government’s emergency powers, to include care operators?

And now we have the BMA agitating for death and service benefits for healthcare workers. No mention of any support for social care workers who may die as a consequence of doing their jobs. The Care Workers Charity may have to redouble its fundraising efforts. And the media is calling for medals for healthcare workers; no mention of any post-pandemic recognition for those in social care.

Pandemics don’t give second chances; either you do things properly from the word go, or you spend a lot of time and resources trying to contain a situation which should not have been permitted to happen, and you bear the consequences. A co-ordinated strategy, mobilising health and social care to work closely together, could have done much to reduce the impact of Covid-19 but it was never going to happen; the disconnect between the two probably could not have been bridged in the time available, even if the political will had been in place, which it wasn’t.

The damage to social care is at present incalculable, but damage there will be; recruitment, already parlous at the start of this, is likely to become still more dire. There will be closures and a contraction of capacity, and everyone will suffer the consequences of years of blithe neglect by successive governments. So come on, give us a smile.

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

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Date Published: April 27, 2020