How Should We Mark World Health Day?

By Philippa Shirtcliffe, Head of Care Quality, QCS (www.qcs.co.uk)

7th April is World Health Day, an annual event celebrated by the World Health Organization (WHO), which it has been running for over 70 years. This year the WHO has created a campaign to “building a fairer, healthier world.”

This a theme that particularly resonates with Quality Compliance Systems, the organisation that I work for. Take a cursory glance at our website and you will see that ‘Helping to create a fairer and more compassionate world’ is our primary purpose. It is something that is woven deeply into our values and company culture.

But this is not a blog about QCS. Instead on World Health Day, as we battle to contain the greatest health crisis in our lifetime, consider this column a call to arms to both strive for and realise profound change in our broken health and care systems.

Of course – as you and I know – the cracks have always been there. But, Covid has cruelly exposed them – and in the process it has revealed deep-lying inequalities in our health and care systems and our society. Again, to anyone working in the social

care sector, which is often nicknamed ‘the Cinderella Service’ due to it being consistently under-funded and under-valued over the years – this was nothing new. But, it was a shock to the general public, who suddenly became aware of the ever-deepening inequalities.

The government has finally taken note. But so far there has been more rhetoric than action. Since pledging to reform the health and care sectors, which would ensure a closer union between the two, very little has been said, until that is, Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary, brought the issue to a head last week.

Mr Hunt asked the Prime Minister if he “could understand the frustration of 1.6 million people in the sector who feel they are always treated as the poor relation?”

Mr Johnson responded by announcing that the social care sector would get a 10-year plan, more of which he said might be revealed in mid-May.

Whether this new development will offer adequate reform, or indeed narrow the gap between health and care, is not clear.

But I think whatever approach politicians take, it needs to be a holistic remedy that recognises the challenges that the health and social care sectors face mirror those faxed by society. The government, therefore, needs to think bigger. Any solutions need to also address the wealth gap. The government constantly talks about “levelling-up”, a phrase minsters love to trot out in interviews, but at some point they need to not just “talk the talk”, but actually “walk the walk”.

To effect real and lasting change, central and local government also need to tackle inadequate housing, a national scandal that ITV News laid bare last week. It must also address poor diet, unhealthy lifestyle, digital exclusion, education inequality, and put the right funding and support in place to address a mental health crisis, which one child behaviour expert called a “ticking time bomb.”

In the long-term too, we need as a society to come together and openly discuss the lessons of Covid. What went wrong? How can we put it right? And what resources and what funding do we need to put in place to avert a similar pandemic in the future?

We mustn’t be afraid to toss ideas around – even if they end up not being realised. Some are suggesting that we bring back national service, for example, which would give young people the option of spending time working in community-based services – such as residential care homes.

Whether an idea like this would ever fly is unclear. But it should be debated, and that is the most important point. World Health Day offers us that opportunity. It provides us with a global platform to bring new thinking to the fore, as to how we address some of the inequalities that Covid has so brutally exposed, and in doing so, lay the foundations to build a fairer and healthier world. We should grab the opportunity with both hands.

QCS is a leading provider of content, guidance and standards for the social care and health care sectors. To find out more about QCS, contact our compliance advisors on 0333-405-3333 or email sales@qcs.co.uk.

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