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Are we seeing a greater recognition of the work carried out by social care workers?

At the start of another working week there are positive signs that we may be seeing the beginning of the end of the pandemic. We all know that Covid-19 is here to stay, but it would be beyond all our expectations if we had the means of how to control it.

Continuing in a positive vein, I have detected over the period of the pandemic a greater recognition of the part played by care workers in getting many people through the impact of the pandemic.

Save the NHS at all costs

If we look back to March and the beginning of lockdowns and the growing fear of uncontrollable transmission of the virus, the government were vociferous in their zeal to protect the NHS and the nurses who work in hospitals at all costs. We all clapped for NHS staff for the exceptional work they were doing, but at that time there was no mention of the part played by care workers in providing care and by closely following domiciliary care policies and procedures during the pandemic.

What brought about the change?

The governments decision to discharge residents from hospitals to care homes without testing and the movement of care workers between multiple care facilities led to more than 25000 deaths. This catastrophe made the public aware of the situation in care homes and people who live and work within them.

At press conference briefings we had all got used to Boris Johnson and the medical experts expounding the need to protect the NHS, but out of nowhere they began to add care workers to the dialogue.

This change resulted in work of social care staff being recognised alongside NHS staff at all future briefings.

The protection of care workers

During the early days of the personal protective clothing crisis, priority was given to frontline staff of the NHS. Providers of social care services and care staff following CQC policies and procedures were left to fend for themselves. But as a result of the catastrophe the government realised if they were to stop the rise in death rates within care homes and prevent further deaths, they would have to make PPE a priority for care services. At that time care workers were putting their own lives on the line and some even living in care homes to look after residents.

Testing

It has taken a long time for the powers that be to get to grips with testing. Even now there is still no confidence among providers with the rapid lateral flow test which continues to give false results. The government’s strategy on testing has been lamentable, so it is not hard to see why it has taken so long to address the issues of testing in care services. However, there is evidence that more testing is being made available to care services.

Vaccination

On a positive note it's great news that we now have a vaccine. It is also a sign of the times that it is the intention of the government to offer vaccination against Covid-19 to care home residents over the age of eighty and care staff. This is another example of how more priority is being given to care home residents and care staff. Albeit to prevent the transmission of the virus and reduce the death rate.

Summary

Social care has long been the poor relation in the eyes of the government. The protection of the NHS was seen as sacrosanct and in the early days of the pandemic, and the social care industry was left to fend for itself. PPE and Testing was a priority for the NHS. All that changed with the catastrophic death rate that occurred in care homes. Especially, when the government saw that nearly 50% of all recorded deaths occurred in care homes. People saw that care staff were willing to put their own lives on the line when prepared to live in care homes with residents.

The recognition of the work carried out by care staff is long overdue. The protection of the NHS and social care at government briefings has a much fairer ring about it. We must hope that when the time comes to set out the future strategy of social care, the contribution made by care workers during the pandemic is not forgotten.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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