Our letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Along with Marie Curie, Age UK, Care England and Independent Age, we are calling for the Government to publish a comprehensive plan to support social care through the coronavirus pandemic.
Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing together as charity and care sector leaders on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable people reliant on social care and the hundreds dying in care homes, supported by an army of incredible, often low paid and undervalued care workers who are not trained to deal with death on this scale.
We appreciate the time you and your Ministers have given us this week in seeking to determine a plan for social care during coronavirus. Like you, our priority is keeping people safe in the face of this terrible pandemic.
We are appalled by the devastation which coronavirus is causing in the care system and we have all been inundated with desperate calls from the people we support, so we are demanding a comprehensive care package to support social care through the pandemic.
As a first step we urgently need testing and protective equipment made available to care homes – as we’re seeing people in them being abandoned to the worst that coronavirus can do. Instead of being allowed hospital care, to see their loved ones and to have the reassurance that testing allows; and for the staff who care for them to have even the most basic of PPE, they are told they cannot go to hospital, routinely asked to consent to Do Not Resuscitate orders, and cut off from their families when they need them most.
A lack of protective equipment means staff are putting their own lives at risk while also carrying the virus to highly vulnerable groups. Care professionals that have this equipment are using it in line with the guidelines - there’s just not enough getting through to the frontline. Care England estimates that there have been nearly a thousand deaths already, yet deaths from coronavirus in care homes are not being officially recorded or published, social care is the neglected frontline.
Older people’s lives are not worth less. Care home staff are not second class carers. The Government must step in and make it clear that no-one will be abandoned to this virus simply because of their age, condition or where they live.
A comprehensive care package must include:
- PPE equipment readily available to care homes. Without it, all residents’ lives are at risk
- Care home staff, and people being discharged from hospital into care homes, given priority testing, alongside critical NHS staff
- Support to ensure contact can be maintained between care home residents and their families
- Good palliative and end-of-life care for people dying in the care system
- A daily update on coronavirus deaths in the care system, just like deaths in the NHS, so that as a society we can understand the scale of the challenge we face.
We know how hard you and your colleagues in Government are working to protect the country from the worst effects of the pandemic. We would like to reiterate our offer to provide support to develop the strategy for social care at this time of crisis. We will continue to do all that we can to make sure families reliant on social care get the protection that they need.
With best wishes,
Kate Lee, CEO Alzheimer’s Society
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive, Marie Curie
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director, Age UK
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England
Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive, Independent Age
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Update (20/4/20): We've clarified our wording above to reflect the fact that a Do Not Resuscitate order must be physically signed by a doctor, not a patient. However, our very real concern is that people with dementia may be pressured to consent to DNRs - we believe that blanket approaches should not be taken, consistent with NHSE guidance.