GUEST COLUMN: A radical sea-change in public perception

Nadra Ahmed

In a four-part article, QCS content operations manager Leah Cooke asked leaders in the social care sector for their views on how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect social care.

In the second column of this series, Nadra Ahmed OBE, Chair of the National Care Association (NCA), writes about the transformation of the public’s perception and understanding of social care.

What do we think will be the legacy of the pandemic for the social care sector? That may be the question we all ask ourselves as we consider reforming healthcare. The adoption and acceleration of technology has clearly been seen as a positive development. There is no doubt that video conferencing platforms have transformed communication channels at care providers during the three national lockdowns.

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But as the pandemic gradually loosens its grip, as a sector, we will need to explore how we maintain the benefits of connectivity without sacrificing person-to-person contact. For example, it would be easy for GPs, who have become used to seeing patients via Zoom during the crisis, to continue monitoring them remotely, but many service users don’t want to see a face peering at them on a screen. They want to see their doctor in the flesh.

The biggest sea change, in my opinion, is the change in perception by the ordinary person on the street and their understanding of the social care sector. Many have been affected by the pandemic; they have lost family members and friends so are personally affected. They also experienced the enormous gap in resources between the health sector and the social care sector – the lack of parity of value or esteem.

On the other hand, we witnessed the tangible benefits of collaboration between health and social care. Innovations like the Enhanced Health in Care Homes (EHCH) models, which brought the NHS and care homes much closer together: the collaboration has been escalated during the pandemic adding great value. Additionally, the public’s imagination has been ignited in relation to social care and we hope that a more engaged and passionate public will apply pressure on government to make the necessary reforms that are so urgently needed.

As a nation, we have a unique opportunity to effect lasting and potentially transformational change. We must take it. I don’t want to appear cynical, but the option to continue to allow policymakers to kick social care reforms into the long grass, as has been the preferred option, is no longer acceptable. We will lose that once in a lifetime opportunity to bring about real change. The option to do nothing would be a failure to ensure quality social care provision for future generations.

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke