Coronavirus - Social Care Update

A message from Helen Whately, Minister for Care, Department of Health and Social Care

Winter is on its way, bringing it with another cruel wave of coronavirus. We’ve all learnt to be vigilant, but already we’re seeing how this horrid disease reaches the most vulnerable in our society despite the obstacles we put in its way. 

Everyone working in health and care knows that every single contact, every single moment with a patient or resident is a moment that must be COVID-19 secure. I don't for a minute underestimate just how hard this is and cannot thank you enough for all that you do.

That’s why the Government recently published the Winter Plan for Adult Social Care, setting out all the support we’re giving to the sector and the part everyone in the system plays to keep care givers and receivers safe this winter.

We are making sure there are secure supplies of PPE, along with regular testing, infection prevention and control (IPC) training and support from NHS England. I’m determined to give social care all the help we can to control COVID-19 this winter.

I hope further peace of mind will come for care staff, residents and visitors following news that we are working up proposals with clinicians and stakeholder groups to run a new visiting scheme.

This scheme will allow specific or designated care home visitors, who provide regular personal care, to attend residential settings multiple times a week. We hope this will help reduce feelings of isolation among residents and provide additional support to care staff.

However, going beyond strategies, plans and directives, I want to make sure the social care sector has the leadership it needs.

One of the many privileges of my job as Minister for Care has been to work closely with the Chief Nursing Officer, Ruth May and her predecessor, Jane Cummings, who is now bringing the benefit of her wisdom to my department’s social care team.

I have come to appreciate just how vital their expertise, guidance and support has been to the NHS workforce, especially in these challenging times. Social care deserves the same dedicated focus.

That’s why I was delighted to announce recently our search for the very first Chief Nurse for Social Care. The individual who takes on the role later this autumn will be your champion and strongest advocate.

Coronavirus may have spurred the impetus to create this position, but it will not be defined by it. The Chief Nurse will be a guiding light and an important ‘seat at the table’. They will be there not just for our collective efforts to contain the virus and keep staff and residents safe, but for social care reforms lasting long after COVID-19 has become a footnote in the history of this country’s health and wellbeing.

In the longer term, what excites me the most is the opportunity to work with the Chief Nurse - and our Chief Social Workers - to not only raise the profile of nursing in social care but also sing the praises of care professionals right across the sector.

Winter won’t wait of course, which is why the role is open for applications now on an interim basis. If you have the feeling this job is the moment you’ve been waiting for, or you know someone who fits the bill, applications are open until 18 October 2020. There really is no time to lose!

If we have learned anything in our ongoing efforts to track, contain and control the virus it’s that the frontline is found not only in hospitals, clinics and GP practices, it’s in care homes, hospices and community settings too.

You were there long before the first COVID-19 cases appeared on our shores and you’ll be there long after they’re gone. That’s why you deserve a standard bearer for your amazing talents. The new Chief Nurse for Social Care will make sure none of us ever forget that fact.