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England's 'fragile' care sector needs immediate reform, says regulator

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The government must immediately deliver a new deal for social care with major investment and better terms for workers, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said, as it warned that the sector is “fragile” heading into a second wave of coronavirus infections.

In a challenge to ministers, the regulator’s chief executive, Ian Trenholm, said overdue reform of the care sector “needs to happen now – not at some point in the future”.

Boris Johnson said in his first speech as prime minister, in July 2019: “We will fix the crisis in social care once and for all.” But no reform has yet been proposed, and more than 15,000 people have died from COVID-19 in England’s care homes.

Trenholm said Covid risked turning inequalities in England’s health services from “faultlines into chasms” as the CQC published its annual State of Care report on hospitals, GPs and care services.

The report reveals serious problems with mental health, maternity services and emergency care before the pandemic, and says these areas must not be allowed to fall further behind.

The regulator argued that the health system’s response to the pandemic needs to change. After focusing on protecting NHS services from being overwhelmed, health leaders must now adapt to prevent people who need help for non-Covid reasons from being left behind, it said.

These include people whose operations were cancelled and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, people with disabilities, and people living in deprived areas who have suffered more severely from the impact of Covid.

“Covid is magnifying inequalities across the health and care system – a seismic upheaval which has disproportionately affected some more than others,” said Trenholm.

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Source: The Guardian, 16 October 2020

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