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Caring Times Christmas Lunch 2021

09 Dec 2021

The Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, London

‘And all is well, tooroo lalay’

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

If it’s good to be cheerful in adversity, then anyone involved in social care has a lot of reasons to whistle a happy tune. Never has the structural and philosophical gulf between health and social care been made so starkly apparent as it has now, by the Government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the virus ever made landfall on our shores, it was already well-established that the greatest risk to life was among elderly people, particularly those with underlying medical conditions. Care home operators took sensible steps, banning visitors and shielding their residents as best they could. The Government sat on its hands and did nothing.

Then we have the omission of care home deaths from official mortality figures, with doctors apparently being encouraged not to mention Covid-19 on the death certificates of those who have died in care homes.

Then we have the PPE fiasco; social care workers should have been provided with it from Day One, to lessen the chance of them becoming reservoirs of contagion and carrying it into their care communities and into the wider community. Again care home operators, in the absence of any initiative from government, took their own steps to access whatever PPE they could find.

Then we have the debacle of testing. Were we to assume that an untested care worker is somehow a lower risk to their communities than a healthcare worker? The Government is playing catch-up, with both PPE and testing, but it’s a little late in the day.

Then we have the absurdity of patient transfers. Care home operators would like to accept placements from hospitals, and so reduce the strain on the NHS but their first duty must be to consider the welfare of their existing residents, so testing of patients would be a given, wouldn’t it? As would the extension of legal indemnities, under the Government’s emergency powers, to include care operators?

And now we have the BMA agitating for death and service benefits for healthcare workers. No mention of any support for social care workers who may die as a consequence of doing their jobs. The Care Workers Charity may have to redouble its fundraising efforts. And the media is calling for medals for healthcare workers; no mention of any post-pandemic recognition for those in social care.

Pandemics don’t give second chances; either you do things properly from the word go, or you spend a lot of time and resources trying to contain a situation which should not have been permitted to happen, and you bear the consequences. A co-ordinated strategy, mobilising health and social care to work closely together, could have done much to reduce the impact of Covid-19 but it was never going to happen; the disconnect between the two probably could not have been bridged in the time available, even if the political will had been in place, which it wasn’t.

The damage to social care is at present incalculable, but damage there will be; recruitment, already parlous at the start of this, is likely to become still more dire. There will be closures and a contraction of capacity, and everyone will suffer the consequences of years of blithe neglect by successive governments. So come on, give us a smile.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

5 Replies to “‘And all is well, tooroo lalay’”

  1. I have to remind myself, that no matter what good you try and do, someone, somewhere, will always look for the flaws.

    But then again, there was never a monument made of a critic, only the criticised.

  2. Thank you so much for this excellent review and in my heart I could not agree more with what you say.

    However, am I surprised? No, of course not, as nothing has changed over the years and I feel care homes and those who work in care homes are sadly neglected and treated with disdain.

    I feel sad for all those who have worked hard to provide services with limited available resources but even more so for all those that have worked with me and provide such dedicated hands-on care. These last few weeks have proved that their hard work is not given a thought.

    You are right that we used our own iniative and introduced measures to try to minimise the risk of an outbreak of Covid – 19 in the homes. We did not wait for anyone to remember us. Thankfully, now, we are being more supported and we can get some residents and staff tested for Covid – 19.

    To date we have had one resident die and three others tested positive that we continue to care for. Six of our staff have tested positive and I hope and pray they will recover well quickly. I am in absolute awe of our team that continue to work in such difficult and indeed scary times. They equally deserve the applause of the nation, politicians and health and social services.

    I would not count on it though! Last year, I was forced to close a home. The letter from social services merely acknowledged my letter, without one word of thanks to any of us that had worked for over 20 years caring for older people in the community at that home.

    I never entered my career in care looking for praise and thanks but some small gesture of thanks, kindness or recognition would have made me feel it was all worthwhile. I have to rely on cheering myself up by thinking of the many, many wonderful letters we have received from grateful relatives and try to forget the lack of respect shown by social services.

    You are amazing how you have continued to fight our corner for us – thank you!

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