A crisis requires leaders to identify responses decisively and at pace. However, setting aside challenges does not mean that they magically disappear. The short termism necessary at times of crisis means yesterday’s priorities become tomorrow’s very real problems. Nowhere in the current crisis has this been more evident than in social care.
The suggestion that a 'protective ring' was cast around care homes is difficult to swallow. The sector was certainly not given the tools to cope with any kind of financial shock ahead of time. Instead it entered the pandemic on the back foot, with mounting demand, workforce shortages, a fragile provider market and significant underfunding.
In the absence of political will to drive long awaited reform, the sector has been dependent on short-term injections of funding. The 2019 Performance Tracker, created by CIPFA and the Institute for Government, showed that before COVID-19, the government would have needed to spend 11% more over the next five years to continue providing the same quality of care.
And when crisis hit? A recent report from the National Audit Office highlighted a clear lack of understanding from government regarding the impact of the pandemic on adult social care, and an inability to see the interdependence between health and social care as a two-way street.
COVID-19 has highlighted weaknesses in the sector’s resilience, and should act as a catalyst for action to be taken. It will be essential that:
The shift in public perception of health and care services means there may never be a better time to finally address this consistently thorny issue.
This article first appeared in the MJ.