Leader provides weekly update
Posted on 17 Jun 2020
I hope you are all well, keeping safe and looking after yourself, and those around you, as we approach what is looking like Phase 2 of the roadmap out of lockdown.
I wanted to focus my column this week on our Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP). Every service across the Council has been impacted by Covid-19 but especially those on the frontline, and there has no one more exposed to the challenges than staff in the HSCP.
Even in these most challenging of times, staff in the HSCP and cared for, protected and supported some of our most vulnerable residents. They have witnessed worry, suffering and tragically people passing as a result of the virus.
I know the day to day emotional struggle has been difficult, yet those working health and social care have continued to demonstrate kindness in their unstinting support for residents. For that I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
That thanks extends to the leadership teams whose planning has ensured the safe continuation of services, particularly their work to ensure that frontline staff have had the proper PPE throughout this pandemic.
We all clapped on a Thursday night to show our appreciation to our carers but now the clapping has stopped we need to continue valuing the role that carers play in our society. For example, the Scottish Trade Union Congress is campaigning for improved pay and terms and conditions of carers in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is hard to argue against their case when the virus has exposed that so many of the key workers, who we have all relied on to keep us safe during this crisis, are some of the lowest paid.
It is impossible to talk about health and social care without reflecting on the tragedy that has fell upon care homes. Like the rest of the country, care homes in North Ayrshire have lost residents to the virus. Each and every one is a tragedy and my thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones, as well as the staff in care homes impacted by the tragedy.
There will undoubtedly be a public inquiry into Covid-19 and care homes will inevitably be a prominent feature of it. It is not for me to prejudge such an inquiry, nor to use this column to pass judgements on the handling of the virus, but I think what is clear is that the strategy was to ‘Protect the NHS’, and at no stage where hospitals overrun by Covid cases and thankfully the NHS Louisa Jordan was never used. But care homes have suffered terribly during this pandemic.
Looking forward, I do wonder whether the pandemic will trigger a debate on future models of care and whether demand for care services will swing more towards care-at-home than care homes. It will be very interesting to see how this develops and my Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Robert Foster, will be paying close attention to it in the months to come.
Robert will also have a renewed focus on the balance of care between public and private provision. In North Ayrshire, we’ve already brought over 70% of our care-at-home services back inhouse and that means better pay and terms and conditions for staff, as well as returning those services to democratic control. That’s a decision that we’ve always felt was the right one but there is a urgent debate to be had about the benefits of insourcing in general, looking at things not just from a monetary point of view but also the social value of our care provision.
It is an interesting time to have these debates as nationally the focus turns to an idea that has been kicking about for a few years, a National Care Service based on the same principles of the NHS. That’s a national debate that we are very keen to be involved in.
Ultimately, all of these discussions, and the decisions we make day-to-day, are about supporting our elderly and vulnerable residents. We need to have a proper debate about the best and most effective care for them as we move forward.
Issued by: Mark Sugden