Veteran care home entrepreneur Robert Kilgour has issued a stark appeal to the UK Government to do more to support the social care sector.
And he warns that if it collapses because it does not have the necessary resources to fight Covid-19, it will have a devastating impact on the NHS.
Kilgour, who founded Four Seasons Health Care in 1988 and who is now chairman of Scottish care home operator Renaissance Care, underlined the point that the social care sector employs more workers than the NHS and which has three times as many beds.
He highlighted what he said were the key issues facing the sector:
A growing shortage of PPE protection equipment for care workers, especially the right masks, when the need is so urgent and increasing daily.
Hospitals not keen on accepting, and in some cases rejecting, care home residents with COVID-19 symptoms – with admissions now seeming to be based on maximum age 75 in some areas. A lot of GPs are now instructing care homes not to seek to admit residents very ill with Covid-19 symptoms into hospital but to care for them within the care homes.
Kilgour spoke after it was revealed that 16 residents had died in a single week at one Glasgow care home and that a home care worker in the west of Scotland had also died with Covid-19 symptoms.
He said: “The question the Government should be asking is, ‘What would happen to the NHS if the social care sector with its 500,000 beds throughout the UK collapsed?’ The simple answer is that wouldn’t be able to cope with the increased demand that that would mean for the 170,000 beds available in NHS hospitals.
“These are desperate times, and we in the social care sector are very much prepared to do our bit and play a vital role in the current crisis, but we simply can’t have the situation now arising where GPs are instructing care homes not to seek to admit residents very ill with Covid-19 symptoms into hospital but to keep and care for them in the care homes.”
He said the deaths at the Burlington Care Home in Cranhill, Glasgow, was likely only to be the start.
“The growing number of care home residents with Covid-19 symptoms are simply not being tested, and if and when they sadly die, their deaths will probably be classified as chest infection or pneumonia,” he said.
He said there was a growing feeling in the social care sector that it is under- appreciated by all governments – local, regional and national.
He said: “There has been a huge increase in the cost of PPE and increasingly long delays in their delivery especially face masks. There have also been instances of equipment ordered by care homes being diverted to the NHS.
“The impact on the morale of care staff of PPE shortages and the increasing number of residents with Covid-19 symptoms in care homes has been massive. Our brave and hard working care staff deserve and need our full support and appreciation. And as an important aside, all care home workers must continue to get access to all supermarkets alongside NHS staff – this has however, improved lately”
Kilgour added: “The social care sector is being asked to do too much with too little. The Government must do whatever it takes to save the social care sector as the survival of our NHS during this crisis depends on it.”