In this blog, Patient Safety Learning considers the impact of the COVID-19 on the social care sector in the UK. This blog highlights the emerging patient safety issues the pandemic is creating in the sector and recommends some essential steps that need to be taken now to tackle some of the most urgent patient safety concerns.
It is no secret that social care was under immense pressure well before the spread of the COVID-19.
Those involved in social care have been calling for the introduction of long-term reforms to ensure that it is fit for purpose, that care workers are invested in and that appropriate support is in place for unpaid carers. Going into the 2019 General Election, all parties recognised the need to reform the system and the Conservative Party was elected on a pledge to find a long-term solution for social care.[
As the impact of the pandemic now takes hold, the ability of the social care system to respond to these issues is beginning to come into focus. In this blog, we look at the emerging patient safety issues the pandemic is creating in the sector, focusing on four main areas:
- Staff safety and lack of access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
- The pandemic’s impact on existing social care and provision for non COVID-19 patients.
- The impact on carers and families of those receiving social care.
- The reporting of COVID-19 deaths outside of hospitals.
In response to these issues, Patient Safety Learning have identified some essential steps that that can be taken at a national and local level to tackle some of the most urgent patient safety concerns:
- PPE distribution to social care should be treated with the same urgency as it is for healthcare.
- Clear guidance should be provided on PPE requirements for specific social care roles.
- Clear guidance should be provided on what steps staff can take to report problems accessing PPE.
- Steps must be taken to ensure that there is enough staffing and volunteer capacity to enable staff to work safely.
- All patients and social care service users should receive the care requirements outlined in their care packages.
- There should be clear guidance on what steps families and staff can take to report problems in service provision or to report safety concerns.
Mitigating the impact on existing care and treatment
- The rollout of testing for COVID-19 in social care needs to increase as soon as possible to identify and isolate outbreaks.
- We need to work with care providers to support the continued provision of services and provide adequate staffing levels during this period.
- We must work with third sector organisations to help provide guidance and support for carers and families.
- We need to ensure that the extra funding committed to the healthcare system is also available to provide to social care.