CEO of Carers Trust East Midlands: “We are now in the midst of a crises of epic proportions”
In an exclusive article for The Parliamentary Review, Christine Alexander, CEO of Carers Trust East Midlands, talks about funding cuts, competing with supermarkets and meeting complex needs during a pandemic.
The Social Care Sector has, for many years, been subjected to decline and deterioration due to public spending cuts, austerity measures and, sadly, the awful cases of abuse and neglect such as Winterbourne and the like. Our funding has reduced, reputation has deteriorated and yet the need for our services has grown exponentially.
Added to this has been a recruitment crisis across our nation that has been compounded by the dawn of our new relationship as a general public with our coffee shops, and a growth in local and mega size supermarkets, our main competitors for staffing.
Whether a charity, like CTEM, or a private company, social care organisations can often be quite fragile due to very low margins. We are considered extremely fortunate if we turn a profit of five per cent. We do not have bucket loads of cash in the bank to fall back on in a crisis.
We are now in the midst of a crises of epic proportions and many will not survive under the extraordinary circumstances our country faces.
The majority of our care is delivered in a community setting. The particular requirements of dealing with Covid-19 are to keep clean, especially hands, face, floors, surfaces. When working in people’s own homes this is very difficult to do. We are not in a clinical setting. The people we care for already have complex needs. They are frightened to let us into their homes, but they need us. Our staff are coping with a tidal wave of emotions from these incredibly vulnerable individuals who know if they get the Covid-19 virus they will likely die.
Our staff are frightened. They work on their own in the community, going from home to home to deliver care. Much of our work is to support hospital discharge or hospital avoidance. The race has been on quite rightly to clear our hospitals of patients, in order to make room for Covid-19 patients. Our staff are bringing these people home, often a little earlier than would otherwise have been the case. Other than gloves and aprons, our usual infection control protocol, our staff have been operating with no other PPE – we cannot order it and we cannot buy it. All PPE has been, quite rightly, going to the NHS first. Nevertheless, both the staff and the patients they care for have been asking day after day why aren’t we wearing masks. The guidance has been clear, and we have communicated daily with our staff to follow the guidance; but their fear is real, and it is raw.
Do they stop going, no they don’t. Not only do they carry on going from home to home or into our hospitals to bring patients home, they offer reassurances, they put a smile on their faces, and they care for these people with strength and resilience.
Slowly we are able to access more PPE and it is becoming easier to get the enhanced PPE we need. We have created Specialist Covid Care Teams all around the country who will care for Covid-19 patients in their homes until they need hospitals or when they come home from hospital with the virus. These staff are volunteers for these roles, no-one is forced. They are trained and equipped with enhanced PPE.
Many of those we support are at the end of their life. If they get the virus, they don’t want to go back into hospital, to a place where they must be separated from their families. Our staff are caring for them at home so they can die with their family around them.
For the first time in the history of the health and social care sectors, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in the NHS. We stem the tide of patients coming into hospital….and we clear the beds of those that can go home with the virus but still require care. We keep care services going for those who are the most vulnerable in our society.
Our workforce has never had the status of the NHS. When this crisis is over, we know that our world will not go back to the way it was before. If there is one thing I hope for, it is that the social care army receives the recognition, the reward and the reputation it richly deserves and has proved it is worthy of during this crisis.