The CEO of a City and County Healthcare has called for parity of esteem between the NHS and community care following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during a panel debate hosted by LaingBuisson last week, James Thorburn argued that community care is being overshadowed by the NHS, and if it were to “remain in the darkness” after the pandemic, it would be a “massive missed opportunity” to unlock preventive care measures.
“I take nothing at all away from the NHS and the fantastic job that they do, and that care homes do, but community care needs to be recognised too,” he said.
“My question is whether community care is going to share that spotlight or whether it’s going to sit in the penumbra, or even worse, remain in the darkness.”
Thorburn said he welcomed the government’s unveiling of a ‘CARE’ brand with an NHS-style identity, but warned that plans to ensure a greater recognition of care staff must be translated into action on the ground.
“We spend between £130 and £140 billion on the NHS, and that’s on 100,000 beds. At the same time, we spend £3 billion on 500,000 elderly people in the community and, by estimate, there are 1 million who we are not caring for in the community,” he said.
“This is a completely inverted triangle. What happens in community matters to the NHS and, like social distancing, social care is crucial to protecting the NHS.
“We have an older, sicker population and we’ve got constrained budgets. We cannot afford to just plough money into the most expensive place. We’ve got to think more about social care.”
Thorburn said he hopes that the future of community care will revolve around technology.
“I think that if community care remains in the darkness then that will be an incredible shame because I think the opportunity for community care in the future is very much about technology.
“We’ve been investing over £10 million in a multi-year programme to try and unlock the opportunities in community care – that’s going digital, clear digital record keeping, understanding what’s happening in the community and intelligence support for the carers who are providing care and facing challenging situations.
“This is also key to population health management. We shouldn’t be focusing only on the end of the process, but very much on prevention and avoidance at the beginning, and I think technology and the unlocking of data is a fantastic opportunity.”