Government launches adult social care winter plan

The Government has published its Adult social care Covid-19 winter plan 2021-22 setting out how it aims to support the sector over the coming months. It applies to all adult social care settings, including people’s own homes, residential care homes and nursing homes, and other community settings.

It builds on last year’s winter plan and the 33 recommendations made by the independent review of the implementation of that plan as part of the Government’s ongoing efforts to review and adapt its response to the pandemic.

The Government acknowledges the ongoing challenges facing the sector from an increasingly stretched adult social care workforce, with recruitment continuing to be difficult in many regions and the infection risk posed by the possibility of a new Covid-19 variant of concern as well as other seasonal respiratory viruses.

To support the sector to meet the challenges ahead, the Government has committed to:

  • Provide further funding to support Infection Protection Control, testing and vaccination uptake – this is in addition to continuing funding for enhanced hospital discharge support until March 2022.  
  • Ongoing support for free flu vaccination for the sector.
  • Continuing to provide free PPE for Covid-19 needs to the sector until the end of March 2022 (although this date could be extended depending on the consultation).
  • Continuing to support care providers to make best use of technology to support remote monitoring and enable family and friends to remain connected.
  • Provide workforce recruitment and retention funding to support local authorities and providers to recruit and retain sufficient staff over winter and support growth in workforce capacity. The Government has launched its recruitment campaign, ‘Made with Care’ encouraging people to follow a career in adult social care. However, the number of vacancies in the sector has remained above 100,000 with new figures currently standing at 105,000 according to data from Skills for Care.

Alongside these commitments, the plan outlines a comprehensive set of national support and resources available to the sector and key actions for NHS organisations from Integrated Care Systems, Clinical Commissioning Groups to Primary Care Networks, local authorities and social care providers across all settings (including those in the voluntary and community sector) to take this winter alongside published guidance.

The plan is focused around four key areas:

  • Preventing and controlling the spread of infection in care settings, including visiting arrangements.
  • Collaboration across health and care services. The primary focus is on preventing avoidable hospital admissions with the sector encouraged to continue its collaboration with primary care and community health services, for example together with a package of support on the safe discharge from NHS settings.
  • Supporting the people who provide care.
  • Supporting the system (and this includes a reminder to engage with brokers well in advance of insurance renewal dates).

A note on the Care Quality Commission’s regulatory approach during this winter is set out. It confirms that they will continue to apply a risk-based approach to inspection and outlines the following national support to the sector:

  • Continue to develop their monitoring approach to capture a broad range of information about a service, using this information to target regulatory activity where it is most needed.
  • Continue to schedule inspections based on risk, where people may be at risk of harm or where a closed culture could develop, by focusing on high-risk providers where there are, for example, safeguarding concerns or where the provider has an overall rating of inadequate.
  • Ensure that all inspections of care providers consider how well services are managing infection prevention and control, taking swift regulatory action where provider-level performance requires rapid improvement. This will include monitoring compliance with vaccinations as a condition of deployment within its inspection activity.
  • Ensure that information about additional risks and pressures, including on staffing and visiting, are raised with national government and relevant system partners.

So a lot to digest with a number of actions clearly set out in each section of the guidance for local authorities, NHS organisations, and social care providers (including the voluntary and community sector).

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