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Reform of care system in unlikely hands

30 July, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Camilla Cavendish. Photo: https://thefrontline.org.uk/

A CAUSE I am keen on began to gather support in govern­ment circles this week – the creation of a National Care Service similar to that of the NHS.

The Covid-19 pandemic finally exposed the failures of the care service as thousands of vulnerable elderly hospital patients died after being transferred to care homes though they were carrying the disease.

Now, it is reported that Camilla Cavendish, the former policy chief in David Cameron’s government, has been brought in by Boris Johnson to take care homes away from local councils and merge them into the NHS system.

This has been denied by the Department of Health and Social Care – but a government denial is often a sound indication that something is afoot.

It is understood pressure from Boris Johnson is behind the idea – perhaps he sees it as part of his legacy because his brush with the disease may have set him on a Damascene journey that could surprise his critics.

Standards of care at care homes range from adequate to scandalous as local councils are squeezed by central government and certainly since private companies were allowed to run them. The very thought that the care of the elderly should become a source of profit by companies, many of which are based in tax havens, throws a shadow over the obligations a society has towards its vulnerable citizens.

Plans are now being openly discussed that a special tax should be paid by everyone over 40 to pay for the increased expenditure that will be needed to reform the system. All this is to the good though I am not sure this is the best way forward for a desperately needed shake-up.

But what puzzles me is that the driving force for this enlightened approach to social care is coming from the least-expected quarter – the Boris Johnson government which is so often under attack for it failures, especially in its handling of the pandemic.

You would expect the reform wing of society – Labour, even Lib-Dems – to be taking up the cudgels on behalf of the neglected elderly but they are well behind the Conservatives. Labour still seems bent on its internal battles despite the claim of the new leadership that it is “under new management”, seeking unity among members. Labour probably has its eyes on the next general election but Boris Johnson, much under-rated, may prove a sharper adversary than is thought.


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