North Yorkshire care home boss Mike Padgham makes the call in an open letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock in The Yorkshire Post, which he is then personally delivering to the Minister’s department today.
The chair of the Independent Care Group has been invited to meet Care Minister Helen Whately after this newspaper revealed last week that the Department of Health and Social Care ignored correspondence which Mr Padgham sent in April 2020 outlining the crisis in care homes at the outset of the pandemic.
This latest intervention comes ahead of Mr Hancock’s appearance on Thursday before Parliament’s Health and Science Committees which are staging a ‘lessons learned’ inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic.
It will see the Health Secretary pressed on claims that Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former aide, made to the hearings last month in which he alleged that Mr Hancock ‘lied’ to Ministers when assuring them that hospital patients would definitely be tested for Covid before being discharged to care homes.
Mr Hancock denied this yesterday, decisions were taken with “the best of intentions”. “We didn’t have the testing capacity. I built the testing capacity,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme. He also declined the opportunity to apologise to all those families left bereaved by the initial absence of testing, saying the “best clinical advice” was followed at all times.
Yet, while Mr Padgham says care staff were left facing a “brutal” challenge, he also warns that providers are in a battle for survival after years of neglect and chronic under-funding was exacerbated by the ravages of the Covid-19 tragedy.
He said last night: “This is an opportunity for the Government to go down in history, as Bevan did with the NHS, as the administration that finally creates a properly-funded, sustainable and successful social care sector that this country craves and deserves.”
His appeal to Mr Hancock says that a “need for root and branch reform – social care’s 1948 moment if you like – has been critical for many years” and that the sector faces a shortage of 120,000 staff.
Expressing frustration at the Prime Minister’s failure to the reform plan promised on the steps of 10 Downing Street on the day he took office in July 2019, the letter also warns of serious economic consequences if the Government does not now act.
“At present social care contributes £46.2bn to the UK economy and employs 1.5m (the NHS employs 1.3m). This contribution would grow if proper investment and reform was put into the sector,” writes Mr Padgham.
“We now stand at a vital moment for social care. If it gets the reform it has been promised, hundreds of thousands of people will get the care they are currently denied and staff will get the recognition they have earned. If it doesn’t get that reform, thousands of care providers will go to the wall at a time when the country needs them most. The choice is there and the choice is stark.”
Others dismayed that the latest Queen’s Speech only saw a vague promise by Ministers to bring forward proposals on care include former premier Theresa May who says there’s now a clear need for “reform that genuinely provides a sustainable social care system into the future”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Protecting people in adult social care has been a top priority throughout the pandemic and the social care sector has done a great job of caring for those most at risk.
“To support the sector through Covid-19 we have provided billions of pounds to support adult social care, including on infection and prevention control measures, free PPE, priority vaccinations and additional testing.”
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