Unison calls for care sector to adopt an NHS-style system to prevent future deaths

The care sector should adopt a similar system to the NHS to prevent more deaths, Unison said, as it published a new strategy.

The UK’s largest trade union said the care system needed a complete overhaul, stating the pandemic exposed the “structural, financial and operational weaknesses” in the care system after thousands of vulnerable people died in care homes.

In its Care After Covid: A Vision for Social Care strategy document – published on Wednesday, the union set out a number of recommendations for the care system to be better prepared for a future health emergency.

Some of the recommendations include staff undergoing a minimum level of training and for care workers to be added to the Government’s shortage occupation list, which will form part of the points-based immigration system set to come into force in January 2021.

The union also suggested local authorities should only source care from providers “that pay their taxes, recognise unions, provide staff with standard work contracts and pay at least the real living wage”.

Unison warned many care workers are currently on zero-hours contracts, with little job security and without paid holidays or sick pay.

It said there should be a move away from “the complex commissioning model” to a national care system based on the NHS, where care is free at the point of need.

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea (pictured) said: “Underpaid, undervalued and undermined staff are at breaking point. The Covid-19 crisis has further exposed just how desperately the care sector needs reform.

“The NHS must be its inspiration. Any reform must build on the few positives to come from the pandemic – that care staff are highly skilled people, providing quality care, despite the many challenges they face.”

It comes after health officials were accused of a “reckless” and “negligent” approach to care homes during the coronavirus crisis.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report found that 25,000 people were discharged from hospitals to care homes at the height of the pandemic without all being tested for Covid-19, between March 17 and April 15.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics, published on Tuesday, show there were 14,404 coronavirus-related deaths recorded in care homes in England and Wales.

“Never again should there be vulnerable people dying in their thousands in care homes”, Ms McAnea said.

“The Government must introduce fundamental reform to create a system fit for the future.”

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