Crisis highlights need for change in health and care links

April 29, 2020 9:00 AM
By Cllr Sharon Harris

The Virus has highlighted the need for a major change in the relationship between our health and care services, writes Liberal Democrat Councillor Sharon Harris.

SharonHOne of the amazing things that this Coronavirus War has done is highlight many unassuming heroes. One who caught the imagination of the public and who has raised nearly £30m for the NHS is Major Tom Moore. He has been an inspiration to us all, both young and old, at a time of great uncertainty for so many. Had he lived in a care home, we might never have heard of him for he might not have survived one of the most scandalous periods in recent history.

In a care home he might have become another of the many unknown older people who have been sacrificed through government negligence and ineptitude. From the start of this pandemic, care home staff were a long way down the list of priorities in terms of receiving adequate PPE. They had to fend for themselves and there was no urgent central government response ensuring that they were protected.

Testing for staff and for residents should have been one of the first things to be done. People over 70 were asked to self isolate almost immediately to shield themselves. Yet there has been no shielding of the most truly vulnerable sector in our society. Many have died without their families, and staff have wept at being unable to give the physical tender loving care that is at the heart of what they do.

There appears to have been no detailed accurate recording of deaths within care homes so we have no real idea of the scale of this tragedy. The NHS was quite rightly the first initial priority but care homes should have followed very closely behind.

Successive governments have ignored adult social care, leaving it largely to the private sector. What 'lock down' and Covid-19 have done is highlight the fact that the NHS and Adult Social Care can no longer be regarded as separate entities. We need to rethink how these parts of our welfare state link together. They should be treated equally in terms of economic recognition and professional status. There must be a seamless interface but this crisis has shone a light on the stark difference between them.

It is easy to look back with the benefit of hindsight and say things should have been done differently. When we saw the news reports of care home staff fleeing care homes in Spain, leaving those in their care to die, alarm bells in government should have been ringing loud and clear.

We are so lucky that Major Tom's personal circumstances enabled him to be cared for with the dignity we would like for our loved ones and ourselves. Had he been in a care home, we might never have heard of him and we would have all been denied this wonderful character.