It is a great shame that VE day on Friday, 8 May 2020, was hijacked by the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in a number of street parties and celebrations being cancelled – all of us appreciate the sacrifices this generation made during WW2.
Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately affects this generation and it is a scandal (and national embarrassment) the number of elderly residents contracting and dying from this virus in our care homes without their loved ones being beside them.
The failure of an adequate testing system, PPE for the staff and the general unreadiness for this inevitable outbreak have all contributed to this sorry state of affairs. We all knew the pandemic like this could happen – in recent years, we have had SARS, Swine Flu and the yearly threat of a virulent flu outbreak.
Once the restrictions on the lockdown are lifted/eased, we need to have a national debate on how to create a sound and sustainable social care system with a particular emphasis on care home provision. The staff need to be valued as much as NHS staff and paid accordingly. It should no longer be regarded as a Cinderella service.
We also need to ask the question “Do we need to have as many people in our care homes who are vulnerable to pandemics and other injuries”? This outbreak has taught us how vulnerable they are.
Back in 1988, the Griffiths Report, examined the whole system of community care and it was hoped following this report older adults and other vulnerable people would be able to remain in the community for longer instead of being institutionalised.
Although good progress has been made with regard to people with mental health problems, very little has happened in keeping older people at home for as long as possible. As a society, we should ensure that our older people have a long, safe and dignified old age. This is more likely to be achieved if they remain in their own homes (with adequate support from Social Services) and not as residents in care homes where they are susceptible to illnesses.