BMA calls for urgent social care reform after Covid-19 was able to wreak ‘utter devastation’ on the system

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 10 September 2020

The British Medical Association is calling on the Government to urgently reform social care in England and make it free at the point of need.

In a paper released today1, the Association says that growing pressures on social care services are resulting in more and more peoples’ needs not being met causing distress for some of society’s most vulnerable and putting unnecessary strain on the wider NHS.

The crisis has been worsened by Covid-19, with more than 30,500 excess deaths among care home residents in England by June 19, 2020 – many of which could have been avoided with adequate funding and resources to help keep staff and patients safe.

On top of that, the BMA’s paper shows that there have been 4,500 additional deaths among those being cared for in their own homes, and social care staff have been around twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than other adults.

The cost of social care in England is projected to rise by around £12 billion by 2030/31, growing at an average rate of 3.7% a year. However, Government expenditure for social care has fallen by 5% in real terms since 2010/11, meaning investment is at an all-time low.

As a result, total expenditure on social care in England is still £300million below the level it was in 2010/11 in real terms, despite increasing demand for services.

The BMA is therefore, calling the Westminster Government to:

1. Boost social care funding to improve access to and quality of care;
2. Widen access to care services by making social care free at the point of need;
3. Provide social care staff with opportunities for salary and career progression to encourage recruitment and retention of the workforce;
4. Focus on prevention, and support people to stay independent for longer.

Dr Helena McKeown, chair of the representative body at the BMA, said:

“For too long, social care has been an afterthought, slipping down the list of Government priorities, much to the detriment of the nation’s health, with services having been overstretched, underfunded, and understaffed for decades.

“The BMA has long been calling for reform, so it was both infuriating and heart-breaking to see the impact Covid-19 had on care homes at the height of the pandemic. The virus, paired with a chronic lack of investment, threatened to break an already fragile system, wreaking utter devastation on the lives of those living and working in care homes. Take PPE, for example. For care homes it came too late, leaving staff and residents dangerously exposed.

“People are living longer with increasingly complex conditions and proper investment in social care is essential to ensuring people who don’t need to be in hospital, stay out of it, and everyone can get the care they need in the community, and that, ultimately, the NHS survives for generations to come.

“We need the Government to listen to our asks and ensure these services are properly resourced, for good. Covid-19 almost destroyed our social care system, and with a growing, ageing population, we need a care system that will support them and those who work it, not one that leaves those in need at risk.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

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