Social care should be operated by NHS for consistency in health system - Jeremy Hunt

19 May 2020, 15:49

By Seán Hickey

The former Health Secretary hinted that if social care operated within the NHS, homes would have been better equipped to battle coronavirus.

Jeremy Hunt, Conservative MP and Chair of the Health and Social Care select committee joined Shelagh Fogarty on a day that the government has come under fire for the way in which they handled the spread of coronavirus in care homes. Mr Hunt was speaking about the findings of the committee on how the UK could have approached the problem better.

Shelagh told Mr Hunt of a call she had with someone who believed "it really is time to bring social care, both domestic and residential back into NHS authority." She wanted to know the views of the former Health Secretary on the matter.

"I didn't succeed in fully integrating the health and social care sectors during my time as Health Secretary" he admitted, but went on to insist that in the midst of a global pandemic it has become clear that "you can't treat these two things as separate."

He was quizzed further by Shelagh when she argued that in the beginning of the epidemic in the UK "testing was so poor and so slow that it was inevitable that some people being sent home to care homes were either definitely Covid positive or potentially Covid positive." She asked Mr Hunt how he has found that this could have been resolved.

The select committee chair admitted that "it clearly was a mistake to discharge people without testing them first" and suggested that we now look at how countries like Germany and Hong Kong have acted on the matter. He went on to tell Shelagh that a possible action that could have been taken would have been to "quarantine people for two weeks after being discharged" to prevent the spread of coronavirus in care homes.

The former Health Secretary hinted at a disconnect between NHS hospitals and Social Care
The former Health Secretary hinted at a disconnect between NHS hospitals and Social Care. Picture: PA

The former Health Secretary pointed out that "we use a lot of agency workers in our sector" and these people are a main factor in the spread of the virus between care settings. He told Shelagh that in Canada "no agency workers can work in more than one care home" and this has significantly reduced the spread of Covid-19 in the care sector. Mr Hunt insisted that if such policy was implemented, it "can make a difference going forward."

Referencing government plans to increase the number of workers in care homes, Shelagh was curious to find out the Conservative MP's reaction to this. He countered by pointing out that "in the south and south east the sector relies heavily on immigrant workers" and after Priti Patel's new immigration policy, the plans could be difficult to implement.

He added that "if you're going to have a short term ramping up of the workforce, it may be a lot of agency workers and therein lies the risk" hinting that the idea might not be the best way to combat issues in the social care sector.

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