The coronavirus pandemic has magnified inequalities in health and social care, a new report from the Care Quality Commission has found.
The watchdog said in its annual assessment of health and care in England that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, and those with long-term disabilities, were already likely to have poor outcomes, but COVID-19 has made things worse.
It praised how quickly changes were made to the way care is delivered during the pandemic, with services developing new procedures in “a matter of days”.
However, it warned that that the challenge now was to develop the best aspects of these new ways of working, while making sure that no one is disadvantaged in the process.
Ian Trenholm, chief executive of CQC, said: “Before COVID, there were a series of fault lines in our health and care system – fault lines around inequalities – and COVID has magnified those fault lines, and there is a risk of turning those fault lines into chasms, and people will fall into those chasms.
“The focus must now be on delivering a health and care system that works for everyone and that no one is left behind.”
He added: “There needs to be an active effort to go back and look for those people who are sitting quietly at home and maybe needs social care support and haven’t asked for it. There needs to be an active effort to go back and get those people and make sure they have a place in a new COVID era, where health and social care is delivered for everybody.”
Over the summer, the CQC reviewed the way health, social care and other local services worked together in 11 parts of the country.
The regulator said that there were differences in the way they responded to the pandemic, but there is evidence that the places with established working relationships and an understanding of need in their local area were better able to care for their local population in a time of crisis.
The CQC is now appealing to local leaders to “seize this opportunity” to collaborate and build the capacity to respond to the needs of their area.