NHS and social care ‘could be merged’ under plans being considered by Government

Meanwhile, the former pensions minister Baroness Altmann told The Telegraph that there would have been fewer deaths from Covid-19 in care homes if social care had been merged with the NHS. 

She said: “The pandemic has highlighted just how inadequate our current care system is” and spoke in support of merging social care with the NHS, adding: “I don’t see any other way of making it fair.”

It comes as MPs said advising hospitals to discharge thousands of patients into care homes without knowing if they had coronavirus was “reckless” and an “appalling” policy error.

A report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee said discharging about 25,000 patients was an example of the Government’s “slow, inconsistent and at times negligent” approach to social care. The committee said it was “concerned” that ministers had continued with the policy “even once it was clear there was an emerging problem”.

Hospitals in England were asked on March 17 to discharge patients, but they did not require a coronavirus test prior to discharge until April 15.

Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said: “The failure to provide adequate PPE [personal protective equipment] or testing to the millions of staff and volunteers who risked their lives to help us through the first peak of the crisis is a sad, low moment in our national response.

“Our care homes were effectively thrown to the wolves, and the virus has ravaged some of them.”

The committee called on the Government to put in place a three-point plan to prepare for a potential second wave of the virus.

Ms Hiller said: “We weren’t prepared for the first wave. Putting all else aside, the Government must use the narrow window we have now to plan for a second wave. Lives depend upon getting our response right.”

Responding to a public accounts committee report, Cllr Paulette Hamilton, of the Local Government Association, said: “Inadequate funding and delayed reforms, compounded by a lack of PPE and testing, and changing guidance, all contributed towards a tragic loss of life in our care homes and other places where people receive care.

“We cannot and must not allow any of these mistakes to be repeated again if the country is to experience a second wave of coronavirus. Social care deserves parity of esteem with the NHS.”

A DHSC spokesman said: “Throughout this unprecedented global pandemic, we have been working closely with the sector and public health experts to put in place guidance and support for adult social care.”

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