When the coronavirus outbreak first reached its peak in the UK during Q2, the primary focus of both the government and media outlets was targeted on hospitals and NHS staff members.
However, figures revealed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that high death rates were particularly prominent amongst care home residents and staff members, with the number of fatalities in care homes (6,409) exceeding those recorded in hospitals (6,397) for the first time on May 1st.
But what lessons can the UK care sector learn from the Covid-19 pandemic, and why is it crucial that these are implemented within a relatively short period of time.
- Social Care Workers and Residents are More Vulnerable than the General Population and Even NHS Workers
In many ways, this is a relatively obvious assertion given the fact that care home residents often move freely between these locations and hospitals. Even on a fundamental level, this increases the risk of infection for both residents and care workers, creating an increasingly pressing need for effective PPE and safety standards.
This is borne out by the numbers, which suggest that care workers in particular have found themselves at the mercy of the virus since it began to take hold in March of this year.
More specifically, social care workers are more than twice as likely to die from Covid-19 compared to the general population, when adjusted for age and sex. This is not necessarily the case for healthcare sector workers, who don’t appear to have a significantly raised risk of death compared to the general population.
This needs to be recognised going forward, both in terms of future pandemics and everyday infections that impact on the lives and productivity of social care workers nationwide.
As an immediate response, the sector must take steps to ensure that care workers have the necessary PPE to operate safely, especially as they must maintain close physical content with residents on a daily basis.
- More Rigid Protocols are Required for Both Employee and Resident Safety
With this point in mind, greater attention needs to be given to the safety protocols in place to secure both employee and resident safety.
If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that more rigid safety protocols are required to safeguard individuals, with specialised transport solutions potentially central to achieving this objective.
Offered by service providers such as Allied Fleet, these solutions can be designed and produced for specific and often diverse requirements, with a view to optimising community safety and minimising the risk posed to otherwise healthy social care workers.
Interestingly, solutions of these types have already been used to safely transport school children to and from educational facilities, with a view to keeping everyone safe and healthy.
- Social Care has Suffered from a Lack of Investment
The issue of underfunding has been rife in social care for years now, while it was a hot-button topic during the recent general election.
During the build up to the vote on December 12th last year, the Labour Party was pledging to merge the social and healthcare sectors in the UK, while Tory leader Boris Johnson spoke somewhat vaguely about “fixing” social care.
Despite these variable approaches, there’s no doubt that the coronavirus has highlighted the impact of underfunding in the social care sector, which must be classed as a failure of both public and private sectors. Aside from investing more in PPE as previously suggested, improved staff salaries and contracts should also be provided as a way of accessing the best and most engaged talent in the space.
Purely from a safety and wellbeing perspective, investing in the delivery of palliative care is also key, as deficiencies in employee training and awareness have emerged in the wake of Covid-19.
This type of care is an interdisciplinary medical caregiving approach aimed at optimising the quality of residents life, while it also helps care workers to understand the complexities of various conditions and the increased risk of infections.