Laura Sharman 16 October 2020

COVID 'magnifying' health and care inequalities

The coronavirus pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ existing problems in social care and magnified health inequalities, a report has warned today.

The annual assessment of the state of health and social care in England by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) warns the pandemic has highlighted the long-standing need for reform, investment and workforce planning in adult social care.

It praised how quickly changes were made to the way care is delivered during the pandemic, with services developing new procedures in a matter of days.

However, it warned new ways of delivering services must not disadvantage anyone, and health and care services must be designed around people’s needs.

Ian Trenholm, chief executive of CQC, said: ‘COVID is magnifying inequalities across the health and care system – a seismic upheaval which has disproportionately affected some more than others and risks turning fault lines into chasms.

’As we adjust to a COVID age, the focus must be on shaping a fairer health and care system – both for people who use services, and for those who work in them.’ Richard Murray, chief executive of The King’s Fund, criticised the Government for failing to act on long-standing promises for reform.

He said: ‘It is time for a reset in public policy to tackle deeply entrenched health inequalities. As health and care staff brace for the second wave of COVID-19, ministers and national leaders must initiate a discussion about the fundamental changes that will create a healthier and fairer society beyond the pandemic.’

Trade union Unison called for an immediate pay and jobs boost in social care and the NHS to help boost morale.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: 'We are committed to supporting our health and care services as they respond to the pandemic and continue to provide high quality care for all.

'We’re investing significantly in mental health and expanding primary and community services to give two million more people – including those with learning disabilities and autism – access to vital support that will improve their quality of life.

'We are strengthening urgent and emergency care – including by upgrading A&Es ahead of winter, and we’re delivering on our commitment to build 40 hospitals by 2030. The NHS is getting a record cash funding boost through the Long Term Plan, and we are looking at range of proposals to put the social care sector on a sustainable footing for the future.'

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