The Government must reintroduce reviews of local health and social care services to tackle the inequalities exposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, a report by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has urged.
Restarting the programme of reviews – known as local system reviews (LSRs) and led by the Care Quality Commission – would help ‘identify better ways in which health and care can be integrated within local places’, the report said.
It was one of 21 recommendations made in the report, which examined the impact of Covid-19 on social care and identified a need for ‘radical reform’ to improve the sector in the future.
LSRs were first commissioned by the Government in 2017/18 to examine how health and social care systems were working together and ensure people were getting the care they need, with the aim of offering bespoke support to areas facing the greatest challenges.
In a recent blog about the regulator’s future approach, Ian Trenholm, CQC chief executive, said the organisation was calling on the Government to commission further LSRs ‘given the positive impact’ reported by providers.
In July, the CQC said it would be launching Provider Collaboration Reviews (PCRs) to look at how 11 Integrated Care System (ICS) or Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) areas are working collaboratively, in order to ‘drive improvements’ and ‘share learning’.
‘Three shifts needed’
Drawing on a series of essays and podcasts and a roundtable with senior leaders, including Helen Whately, minister of state for social care, the report identified three ‘shifts’ that are needed to address the ‘devastating impact’ Covid-19 has had on the sector.
As well as calling for a long-term plan for social care, similar to that published for the NHS, the SCIE report pushed for three fundamental changes:
- Shift one: ‘From hand-to-mouth to long-term and sustainable funding. We simply can’t go on like this, and call on the Government for a fair and long-term funding settlement for social care.’
- Shift two: ‘To shift investment and focus away from remedial and acute services towards prevention. To assist with this shift, introduce innovation funds which for the sector to scale up the most effective preventative models of care, housing and technology.’
- ‘Shift three: From workforce low pay, low recognition and poor conditions, towards higher pay, better conditions, progression and development – and parity of esteem with the NHS.’
Paul Burstow, SCIE chair, said: ‘I hope that Government and sector leaders find this report a source of inspiration and ideas for turning that vision for social care into a reality, one that gets us beyond Covid-19.’
Kathryn Smith, SCIE chief executive, added: ‘Since I became a care worker at 16, I have never known a worse period for social care. Every day, as more reports came in about deaths that could have been prevented, lack of testing kits and personal protective equipment, or local authorities and providers facing financial ruin, I’ve felt a sense of despair.
‘However, I am also reminded every day of the enormous resilience, versatility, passion and empathy of the care workforce, and within wider communities. And I ask myself, can we come out of this undoubted crisis stronger? I think we can.’