Beyond COVID: The social care crisis

Our Chief Executive, Lesslie Young, looks at how the new Scottish Government must respond to the crisis in social care, which has been brought into sharper light by the pandemic and create a National Care Service.

Last week the 5th Scottish Parliament term ended. At the time of the last Scottish Parliament election in 2016, we could never have imagined the position we find ourselves in now.

In five years, much was promised and much has happened. But much has either remained unchanged or worsened.

The pandemic has tested everyone’s resolve, depleted our physical, emotional, and of course, our financial reserves.

Many question if we will ever return to what we refer to as normality. Others ask if we want to.

Those working in health and social care have been pushed to breaking point. So, the announcement NHS nurses, Band 1-7 are to receive a 4% pay rise meaning the average pay of a frontline NHS nurse will rise by £1,200 is a very welcome one.

However, this reward is restricted to those working in the NHS.

We have said repeatedly, there is a real but under-recognised interdependence of skills and disciplines required to afford the best possible outcome for anyone who needs clinical intervention and or care.

Doctors, nurses, professions allied to healthcare, care providers, support workers are all essential to achieve the best outcome for someone, wherever their starting point is.

Is that not why we now have Health and Social Care Partnerships? Or should we see that as a misnomer?


Care workers

The frontline may start in the NHS, but it does not end there. It extends well beyond, into care homes, houses of multiple occupancy, residential homes, and private houses.

Care workers were, and remain on the frontline of this pandemic, protecting the most vulnerable in society.

Not only did care workers face the same enemy as those in the NHS, but they did so with less protection, less support, and less investment.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee found during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Social Care provided NHS trusts in England with 80% of their estimated PPE need, but only provided the adult social care sector with 10% of their estimated need.

Whilst we welcome the 4% offer to the nurses, it not only demonstrates the unchanged and blatant undervaluing of social care, but it also widens the division between the NHS and social care which already existed.

Would it be right to assume there is no real partnership, but social care has been and continues to be just a poor cousin?


A National Care Service

In 1948, our National Health Service was established after the resolve of society was significantly tested and nearly broken due to the Great Depression and WWII.

At the time, many said it was too expensive. However, its creation revolutionised healthcare in Britain and the NHS continues to be a defining pillar of British society.

We believe the next Scottish Parliamentary term should be a defining moment for social care.

The Scottish Government must respond to the crisis in social care which already existed but has been shown in stark relief by the pandemic and create a National Care Service.

The groundwork for this work has already been set out in The Adult Social Care Review. As Derek Feeley outlined in the report,

“We need a National Care Service to achieve the consistency that people deserve, to drive national improvements where they are required, to ensure strategic integration with the National Health Service, to set national standards, terms and conditions, and to bring national oversight and accountability to a vital part of Scotland’s social fabric.”

We believe a National Care Service must hold equal value and be held in the same high regard as the NHS as we know and can evidence, they work in tandem to meet the needs of our population.

As we approach the 6th Scottish Parliament, we implore those decision makers to make the change which has been needed but ignored for decades.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is we cannot and do not want to go back to the way everything was. The price is quite simply, too high.

Now is the time to look beyond Covid. Don’t just talk about but implement the much-needed social care revolution.