By Gabrielle Silver, Chief Executive
The NHS is ‘getting back to normal’ with preparations underway for routine operations, getting cancer screening services running again and encouraging people to attend A&E or see their GP with any health issues.
‘Normal’ is an appealing idea at the moment but one of the things we have learned over the last weeks is that the old normal wasn’t perfect. In exiting this phase of the pandemic we need to ask how we can move forward and shake off old habits and ways of working that didn’t always deliver the best outcomes for older people and their families. We need to move forward, support and grow better ways of working making sure the health and care we provide for older people is more resilient and fit for the future.
There are three things which stand out for me:
- This crisis has highlighted cases where older people have been left to the elements in an underfunded and poorly coordinated care system. This can’t be allowed to happen again. The tales of horror taking place in UK care homes are repeated in Spain, Canada and the US. This issue is not unique to the UK but we are unique in that we have a universal single health and care system, one that is world-leading in many respects, but the gulf between the care provided in a traditional health setting vs that in the community has been exposed. This isn’t about a lack of commitment from the people working in the community but rather indicative of consistent underfunding and a lack of functioning cross-sector working. It’s time to challenge how social care is delivered, funded and incentivised.
- There will be much to unpick from what was missed in the last two months and how acute care was prioritised over everything else. We’ve highlighted the importance of maintaining visibility of the 15,000+ people discharged under Corona Act. For these people their care is currently being funded by the NHS. This will not last in perpetuity. Where records were not maintained or assessments not undertaken it will prompt concerns about where these older people will live and be cared for in the long term as well as who will pay? This will add to the stress for families, older people and providers as well as slowing the system resetting.
- Private partners are central to the solutions and progress needed to ensure the health and care system can thrive. The challenge that support from private partners is optional and can only be temporary needs to be put to bed. We’ve seen the private sector step up and help throughout the pandemic with commitment, insight, investment and innovation. A modern, fit for purpose health and care system needs to harness all the private sector has to offer and leverage that for the benefit of patients, their families and the staff that care for them.
We don’t need to return to normal, we need to move quickly and with focus to a better, more integrated care sector, where systems and processes ensure better care for the elderly.