Is nationalisation a cure for our ailing care industry?

  Posted: 10.07.20 at 10:06 by Mico Bienvenu

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Mico Bienvenu, the Director of Thurrock-based Christian Care Homes is an occasional contributor to Thurrock Nub News with his views on the care industry and the NHS.
Here is his latest piece.

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WE recently celebrated 72 years of the National Health Service, the pride of our nation. We applaud its achievements, despite numerous reorganisations over the years. Many or if not most of us have benefited from its services at some time in our lives.

After working for many years in the NHS, I see myself as a health care professional veteran having acquired so much experience and knowledge in the ethics, ethos and delivery of its services.

Over the years, I have also witnessed the privatisation of some of its services, which I must admit has been beneficial for its development, research and growth.

However, the very essence of the NHS activities is deeply rooted and directed wonderfully, passionately and professionally in the national interest. The same ethos should be for our Social Care system.

The Pandemic of Covid 19 has bewildered and shocked us as a nation. It was unprecedented, fierce and swept our land and indeed the whole world at a time when we all under estimated its power and cruelty targeting mostly those who are weak, frail, elderly and vulnerable. We have had to learn very quickly how to safeguard those particularly at risk from an enemy which is invisible and unrecognisable. The virus is like a roaring lion waiting to devour any victim on its path moving from one country to the other.

Many care homes depend on community support - is it time the state played a greater hand in ensuring a high standard of care?

Even our own Government was taken by surprise, shaken and baffled by Covid 19’s indiscriminate destructive power and the misery it brought to peoples’ personal lives and the economy. It has changed the way we engage and relate to each other. Wealth no longer takes a priority in our lives, but it is our health and simple pleasures that matter.

Sadly and tragically, we have lost so many of our loved ones. Many of us have a story to tell about the loss of a friend, family member or someone we know. The NHS is coping remarkably well, thank goodness and whilst everyone was cheering for the NHS heroes, the enemy was busy insidiously taking hold of its territory, mutating and affecting the most vulnerable, the elderly in our Care Homes.

Many of the Care Homes’ staff worked tirelessly under enormous pressure with great spirit and determination using all the resources, albeit limited at that time, made available to them. Needless to say , in any battle we have casualties, nevertheless carers put their lives and those of their families at risks and never gave up being there for the elderly in desperate need of care.

Carers were the super heroes of the pandemic . As the virus kept changing its course and strategy, the Government was readily giving daily briefings and adopting new techniques in order to defeat the enemy. We all worked laboriously and collaboratively in accordance with the Public Health updates and regular guidelines. My guess is that every government in the world was desperate to obtain PPE supply, which, as you can appreciate, was scarce as the prices rocketed sky high day by day.

China, being our main producer, was engaged in a similar agonising situation having to provide PPE to protect its own people.

As we are now going through a new and stabilising phase of the pandemic, we all need to reflect on the things we could have done better during the critical time and not to live in denial or attempting to blame others for the wrong decisions previously made. We cannot change mistakes made in the past, but surely we can now equip ourselves to do better in the future as we unite as a nation to face further inevitable potential perils.

In an attempt to look for long lasting solutions when faced with ever changing medical and social challenges we need to be mindful of intransigent behaviours and opinions that create confusion, disharmony and conflicts in our own minds and the nation.

In view of Covid 19, it does appear though, that the whole Health and Social Care System
drastically needs to be reformed or re-evaluated so that there are clear expectations of a unified
service. We need to adopt shared values, standards, treatment and accessibility of a such service
provisions as we do for the NHS.

Throughout this pandemic, from the conversations going around nationally in the care sector, Care Homes feel that they are seen as a lesser priority in terms of the protection and support initially given to their staff and residents. Exposed to the Covid virus, many of us carers remained asymptomatic unaware we were possibly being infected and still working.

Sadly, some of our colleagues were severely affected and had to be off sick for long periods. This undoubtedly
created additional work pressures on the delivery of care services. The care system needs to be unified and hopefully this will eliminate any conflicts of interest and expectations between health and social care right across the sector.

The World Health Organisation definition of health is ‘ a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

With a nationalised social care system, the general public will begin to see, the benefits, values and appreciate the professional Care Services as they do the NHS. Generally, the care sector is viewed with suspicion and dismay as a profitable money generating business with inadequate and poor delivery of care services.

Some people would argue that as a civilised and caring society we should promote and encourage the elderly, sick, disabled to be cared for by non profit organisations similar to how the NHS is funded. This may help to dispel the long-standing stigma and negative stereotype image attached to the social care sector as an undesirable money spinner institution rather than a homely, loving and caring environment for old age.

Society may then begin to view old age and welcome it as a natural process of a long life achievement and not
as a poor relation of the social care service.

The Bible tells us in Leviticus 19:32 “ Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.”

Nationalising of our social care system can be managed effectively and successfully by local authorities and charities with an emphasis on promoting better care and not for profit, thus reducing competition between the local, private and voluntary sector.

The local community can be encouraged to take an interest in the day to day activities of daily living and ethos of the social care sector, with the support and funding from local and central government.

A local management committee run by volunteers can be set up to regulate the standards of the local Care Homes. The aim is to create a vibrant and engaging local therapeutic community supported and managed by the people with local knowledge and for the people.

This is a similar concept to the current board of governors of local school and academies. We have recently witnessed how communities can step up to care for each other at times of dire needs.

We must not dampen or play down all the good work and valuable contributions in the past by the private and voluntary care sector, but following this , central and local government really need to take stock of the situation to re-structure and make changes in the Health and Social care provisions for the future. When the private care sector was introduced as part of the reorganisation of social care in the UK, local authorities had always remained a better funded sector per unit cost of care.

The local government is the main fund holder, distributor and administrator of central government funds.
Hence, local authorities are well equipped to remunerate their staff appropriately in terms and conditions of employment.

This was clearly evident during the peak of the pandemic when local authorities were able to provide their staff with all the necessary full PPE and resources, whilst the private and voluntary sector were rationed or could not have access for luxuries and necessities. Indeed, it is has always been very much a two tier system, so why not taking the opportunity now to nationalise the care system where everyone can access social care, just as we have for the NHS at times of need.

The Sir William Beveridge Report published in November 1942 was officially entitled ‘Social Insurance and Allied Services’. In challenging , unprecedented and modern times, using his vision, let us now move on and progress to a ‘Social Assurance of an Allied services of a National Health and Social Care System’. Now is the time for unification.

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