By Lisa Lenton, Chair of the Care Provider Alliance
Whether it is a nurse in ICU, a GP or community carer supporting a person in their home, a physiotherapist or mental health support worker – Acute Services, Social Care and Health services are united by one aim; that aim is to ensure the people under their watch receive the best care and support possible, so they have the best possible outcome for their physical and mental health.
This crisis has truly shown the value of social care and the importance of health and social care working together for individuals. It is that partnership approach that has ensured hospitals have been able to free up beds to care for the most sick and ensure that people who still need support have it.
The COVID-19 virus pandemic has put the spotlight on the health and social care sector like never before. Over the past few weeks, we have been inundated with media enquiries; nurses, doctors and indeed social care workers, are now the stars of social media. As a nation, we are coming together on Thursday nights to show our appreciation of these people who are putting their own health at risk.
It is encouraging to see this national support in amongst the devastating loss of life, and the many, many challenges the care sector is facing. But more importantly, in this national emergency it is clear, as never before, that the social care sector is providing vital support to the most vulnerable in our society and is crucial in supporting and maintaining the NHS. The two are intrinsically linked.
Homecare and community support providers can expedite swift hospital discharge, freeing-up essential critical care capacity. And let us not forget too, behind every COVID-related statistic death, there is a heart broken family, and a team of exhausted carers. Many of these are accessing counselling services to help them through the bereavement or other affects the pandemic is having on their mental health.
GPs, district nurses and other medical professionals are working with the social care sector to ensure their vulnerable and at-risk patients, older people, those with learning disabilities, autism, and a physical disability, have the support they need.
The social care sector is rising and adapting to meet the challenge. Day service providers are taking their activities online, and using technology or calling service users to ensure vital support is still there to help them with their challenges or to reduce the risk of isolation.
And even with social distancing in place, care homes are keeping families connected to loved ones by using technology. But most importantly, there is still the human touch; who didn’t well-up when 94-year-old Ken expressed his gratitude to carer Kia Tobin, when she thoughtfully gifted a cushion with a picture of his late wife? Our members, service providers, see gestures like this on a daily basis.
While there is still much to be done to address the challenges at a government level, testing is now being rolled out to the millions of key workers and their families in England. Essential workers will also be able to book their own tests, home testing kits will be made available for those who cannot drive and the armed forces are setting up 92 mobile testing sites during the month of May. We have been asking for mass testing for weeks and we are hopeful once the Government gets this right and scaled, that intelligence will help lead this fight against this virus.
We have ensured the PPE crisis remained on the table and this, in part, has led to the establishment of a centralised supply system. Furthermore, we have worked to ensure care providers maintain access to food suppliers.
Together with Social Care Institute for Excellence we have lobbied national supermarkets to include the social care workforce in their priority opening hours. To date, Aldi, Asda, Co-Op, Iceland, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are now including social care workers in their priority hours.
Now, more than ever before, we are recognising that when our entire health system is supported and working together, we can indeed do great things.