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16 October, 2020 Open access

COVID-19 is magnifying social care inequalities and risks turning ‘fault lines into chasms’

Pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing funding and staffing problems despite short-term interventions during the outbreak, says Care Quality Commission

The government’s failure to agree a social care funding model continues to drive instability in the sector, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said.

In its annual assessment of the state of health and social care in England, the CQC looks at the quality of care over the past year - including the period before the full impact of COVID-19 began to be felt at which point its routine inspections were suspended. While it notes that, pre-COVID-19, health and care provision was generally good, the CQC highlights that there has been little overall improvement and some specific areas of significant concern.

In relation to social care, it finds that -

While agreeing with the government’s commitment in its April COVID-19 action plan for adult social care to ensure that social care gets the recognition and parity of esteem with the NHS it deserves, the CQC stresses that action is needed now -

‘The legacy of COVID-19 must be the recognition that issues around funding, staffing and operational support need to be tackled now - not at some point in the future.’

Commenting on the report, Chief Executive of the CQC Ian Trenholm said today -

‘Pre-COVID, the health and care system was often characterised as resistant to change. COVID has demonstrated that this is not the case. The challenge now is to maintain the momentum of transformation, but to do so in a sustainable way that delivers for everyone - driven by local leadership with a shared vision and supported by integrated funding for health and care.

“There is an opportunity now for Government, Parliament and health and care leaders to agree and lay out a vision for the future at both a national and local level. Key to this will be tackling longstanding issues in adult social care around funding and operational support, underpinned by a new deal for the care workforce. This needs to happen now - not at some point in the future.

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.’

For more information, see COVID-19 is magnifying inequalities and risks turning fault lines into chasms from the CQC website.