The Care Quality Commission's (CQC) annual assessment of the state of health and social care in England shows that while care before the pandemic was generally good there were still some areas of concern with little overall improvement to services from the previous year. For example in mental health services, inspectors continued to find poor care in inpatient wards for people with a learning disability and/or autistic people.
Since the arrival of COVID-19, these issues still remain, but so much else has changed. In a matter of days, services developed new procedures and ways of working, often taking advantage of technology, such as the switch to more flexible GP consultations by phone and online.
The challenge now will be to keep and develop the best aspects of these new ways of working while making sure changes made during the pandemic do not leave anyone without care that is right for them.
Responding to the report, Imelda Redmond, National Director of Healthwatch England said
"People are grateful to NHS and social care staff for the quick changes to services they made to keep us all safe from COVID-19. However, these rapid changes disadvantaged some and, as today's report highlights, we need to avoid making the same mistake twice.
"Whether providing advice in the right language, making sure people without the internet can still see their GP or supporting whose treatment has been delayed, services need to think more about how they can provide everyone with a fair and equal experience.”
Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of Care Quality Commission said:
“Pre-Covid, the health and care system was often characterised as resistant to change. Covid has demonstrated that this is not the case. The challenge now is to maintain the momentum of transformation, but to do so in a sustainable way that delivers for everyone – driven by local leadership with a shared vision and supported by integrated funding for health and care.
“There is an opportunity now for Government, Parliament and health and care leaders to agree and lay out a vision for the future at both a national and local level. Key to this will be tackling longstanding issues in adult social care around funding and operational support, underpinned by a new deal for the care workforce. This needs to happen now – not at some point in the future.
“Covid is magnifying inequalities across the health and care system – a seismic upheaval which has disproportionately affected some more than others and risks turning fault lines into chasms. As we adjust to a Covid age, the focus must be on shaping a fairer health and care system – both for people who use services, and for those who work in them.”