The biggest challenge that has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic is that of social care. The early policy of trying to remove ‘bed blockers’ from our hospitals – spread the virus into care homes and exposed the most vulnerable to the the virus- leading to large numbers of deaths.
This is not solely a pandemic problem but one that blights our hospitals and health service permanently. With a rapidly ageing population the ’emergency care’ patients receive in hospitals has to be supported by care packages when the patient returns home (or goes into a care home). Patients cannot return home until an appropriate package of care is able to be provided. This leads to problems of overcrowding in hospitals because these patients cannot be discharged. This problem has again arisen with the new strain of COVID, hospitals’ biggest problem is not being able to discharge vulnerable people, who again are most at risk of contracting COVID whilst in hospital – even if they were not admitted with a positive test.
Social care is both underfunded and unclearly funded. Carers are usually paid under working wage, they are given impossible rotas and the care packages that are granted both by the local authority and NHS, in terms of continuing healthcare, are vastly underestimated, leading to poor and often degrading care for patients.
We have spent billions of pounds in this crisis saying that we want to protect out most vulnerable and they must not die from COVID, yet we are happy to allow them to die from neglect – lying in nappies in their own excrement.
This has to be the most important issue that we resolve as a result of this pandemic.