Speaking during yesterday’s Integrated Care Journal Virtual Healthcare Breakfast on supporting social care during the COVID-19 outbreak, Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, (pictured) said it was important when the crisis is over for social care to not slip back into being the underdog to the NHS and other services within the health care system.
Martin told the webinar that while the crisis had exposed some “fault lines” in the health and social care system it had also highlighted the importance of social care.
The Care England CEO observed how care staff had stepped into the breach to take on increasing responsibilities as acute services had stepped back in some places.
“We have seen the acknowledgement that social care staff can now do some quite high level things,” Martin noted.
“In the future we have to make sure that is acknowledged, properly rewarded, that there is a training and competencies framework that starts a process that enables people to move seamlessly across the system.”
The Care England boss praised the contribution of the social care workforce and “volunteer army” which had stepped up during the crisis and stressed the need to continue to engage volunteers resource when the pandemic is over.
Martin also focused on the higher media profile of social care as a result of the crisis and its potential to attract a wider recruitment pool in the hard economic times ahead.
“I don’t want to lose sight of the long term and there are some gains that we are making now that we must all work together to make sure that we don’t slip back,” he emphasised.
“I don’t want this crisis to end with a return to the status quo. This is our moment of paradigm shift and we must be committed to making sure that paradigm shift happens.”
The discussion also focused on problems of accessing PPE and conflicting guidance on its use during the pandemic.
Martin said there had been a lack of “proper and consistent and clear advice” from bodies such as Public Health England which had led to confusion and the misuse of PPE.
Dr Pete Calveley, CEO of Barchester Healthcare, said everyone was struggling to keep adequate quantities of PPE, adding this was being pressured even more by public health bodies “raising the bar” as to who should be wearing it and when.
The Barchester chief said the message was being further confused by local decision makers such as local health boards, CCGs and local authorities, issuing their own guidance on PPE.
On a positive note, Dr Calveley said Barchester had agreed up to 400 block contract beds within a week of the announcement that more people had to be discharged from hospital to free up beds to deal with the crisis.
“I just hope that with the great precedent that has been set by this awful pandemic that actually something comes out of it where we have better relationships and processes that get us block contracts for winter beds to clear capacity for the NHS during normal times,” he concluded.