The government has ‘acted too slowly and did not do enough to support social care users and staff’, according to new analysis from the Health Foundation.
According to the analysis, since March there have been more than 30,500 excess deaths among care home residents in England and 4,500 excess deaths among people receiving domiciliary care. While high numbers of excess deaths of people living in care homes have been well reported, the analysis shows there has been a greater proportional increase in deaths among domiciliary care users than in care homes (225% compared to 208%). And while deaths in care homes have now returned to average levels for this time of year, the latest data (up until 19 June) shows that there have continued to be excess deaths reported among domiciliary care users.
‘The pandemic has had a profound impact on the lives of people receiving and providing social care,’ said Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive at the Health Foundation.
‘The social care system has lacked adequate investment for decades and successive governments have not faced up to the issues facing the sector. COVID-19 has highlighted the extent of this neglect, with tragic consequences. Against this backdrop, the government’s response has been too little, and come too late. The consequences are now clear and in plain sight.’
According to the Health Foundation, decades of inaction by successive Governments have meant that the social care system entered the pandemic underfunded, understaffed, and at risk of collapse. Any response to COVID-19 would have needed to contend with this legacy of political neglect. As the UK prepares for potential future waves of the virus, the Health Foundation warns that social care must be given equal priority to the NHS, including a greater focus on domiciliary care, and that more fundamental reform of the social care system is needed to address the longstanding policy failures exposed by COVID-19.
‘Government must learn now from the first phase of the pandemic to invest in and support social care,’ added Dr Dixon.
‘In the next year we must see long-overdue reform which should include action to improve pay and conditions for staff, stabilise the care provider market, increase access to publicly funded services, and provide greater protection for people against social care costs. The Dilnot proposals, to cover catastrophic social care costs, are already on the statute book in the 2014 Care Act and are ‘oven ready’ – the government could make a start to reform there. The Prime Minister’s commitment a year ago to fix social care once and for all, needs to be honoured now.’