BMA calls for urgent social care investment after system ‘almost destroyed’ during pandemic

Social care in England must be urgently reformed after the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with a chronic lack of investment “threatened to break an already fragile system”, a doctors’ union has warned.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said there has been “utter devastation” for people living and working in care homes amid the virus outbreak and called for a funding boost to increase access to and quality of care.

The organisation said increasing pressures on social care services mean more and more people’s needs are not being met, which not only results in distress for some of society’s most vulnerable people but also puts an additional strain on the NHS.

Dr Helena McKeown, chairwoman of the BMA’s representative body, said the Government must listen to their pleas, describing how “Covid-19 almost destroyed our social care system”.

Analysis by the PA news agency earlier this month showed there were more than 400 deaths involving Covid-19 each day in UK care homes at the height of the coronavirus outbreak.

The BMA said many of the excess deaths among care home residents in England could have been avoided with adequate funding and resources to help keep staff and patients safe.

It said its research showed there have been 4,500 additional deaths among those being cared for in their own homes and social care staff have been around twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than other adults.

The union said total expenditure on social care in England is still £300 million below the level it was in 2010-11 in real terms, despite increasing demand for services.

It is calling on the Government to not only increase funding but to widen access by making social care free at the point of need, to give social care staff opportunities for salary and career progression to encourage recruitment and retention, and to focus on prevention, and support people to stay independent for longer.

Dr McKeown (pictured) said: “The BMA has long been calling for reform so it was both infuriating and heartbreaking to see the impact Covid-19 had on care homes at the height of the pandemic.

“The virus, paired with a chronic lack of investment, threatened to break an already fragile system, wreaking utter devastation on the lives of those living and working in care homes.

“Take PPE, for example. For care homes it came too late, leaving staff and residents dangerously exposed.

“People are living longer with increasingly complex conditions and proper investment in social care is essential to ensuring people who don’t need to be in hospital stay out of it and everyone can get the care they need in the community and that, ultimately, the NHS survives for generations to come.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We have provided councils with access to an additional £1.5 billion for adult and children’s social care in 2020/21 and we have made £3.7 billion available to councils in England so they can address pressures on local services caused by the pandemic, including in adult social care, as well as a £600 million Infection Control Fund.

“We know there is a need for a long-term solution for social care and are looking at a range of proposals as part of our commitment to bringing forward a plan that puts the sector on a sustainable footing for the future.”

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