Industry Leaders Write Open Letter to Health Secretary on “Living With Covid in Care Settings”

Industry leaders have written an open letter to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the letter, from Methodist Homes (MHA), the National Care Forum and the Care Workers’ Charity, follows the publication of the guidance for testing and visiting in care homes issued this week, and reads:

(Open letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care – 1 April 2022)

Dear Secretary of State

Living with Covid guidance for health and care: risk of provider destabilisation
We write regarding the Written Ministerial Statement dated 29 March 2022 which set out the Government’s approach to Living with Covid in care settings. The care sector has some significant concerns about the impact the associated guidance will have on people working in care and on organisations delivering care. As we understand it, the intention is for care workers to continue asymptomatic testing, and this will not apply to residents or the majority of visitors. Yet the Government has ended funding to support the payment of sick pay for people working in care settings. At the same time, infection rates amongst this group are likely to rise as visitors and others inadvertently bring Covid into these settings.

In the midst of a cost of living crisis, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will be expecting care workers to self-isolate more, and to do so without pay. The end of Infection Control Funds (ICF) puts social care workers in the unfair position of being the only people to now have to experience Living with Covid as something that has a material impact on their family’s financial situation. The social care workforce is already on its knees and it seems inevitable that as it stands this guidance will further exacerbate the recruitment and retention crisis.

The financial sustainability of charitable care providers has already been significantly affected by the pandemic, and the new guidance threatens to destabilise these organisations further. We are aware that there could be catastrophic consequences for organisations attempting to cover sick pay. For example, for the UK’s largest charity care provider for older people, MHA, supplementing the withdrawal of Government funds for sick pay would cost the organisation in the region of £100K – £150K for one month. If the guidance continues to be in place for longer periods, this one not-for-profit care provider could be looking at around an extra £1.5m for a year, with a knock-on impact on services to enable people to live later life well. Meanwhile, the devolved nations of Wales and Scotland are continuing their sick pay support until the end of June, but in England, the care sector is, once again, on a cliff edge.

It seems incredible that the guidance will recommend that care staff continue to test for Covid when they have no symptoms, but that the people they care for and their visiting loved ones will not be expected to do so. This renders the testing of staff ineffective and pointless, with only one part of the infection control puzzle being in play.

We desperately want people who use care services and the people who so brilliantly care for them to be able to Live with Covid. But the Government’s guidance will put at risk the ability of not-for-profit providers to continue delivering. Given the severe financial and operational impact on care provision, we would ask you to reconsider the Government’s position on Living with Covid in care settings and specifically:
• Provide funding through which care providers can offer our hard-working colleagues the sick pay that they deserve,
• Address the inconsistency in care setting testing arrangements,
• Share publicly the evidence upon which the new guidance is based,
• Meet with representatives of the social care sector.
We look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely,
Vic Rayner – Chief Executive, NCF
Sam Monaghan – Chief Executive, MHA
Karolina Gerlich, Chief Executive, CWC

 

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