UK Government Unveils Comprehensive Winter Plan for Adult Social Care


In a bid to address the challenges facing adult social care (ASC) during the upcoming winter season, the UK government has outlined its ambitious plan for reform and investment in the sector. As the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises that this winter will be the first when COVID-19 will coexist with other respiratory viruses, including the seasonal flu, the government is taking proactive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals.

The Prime Minister’s plan, unveiled on 7th September 2021, not only emphasises adult social care reform but also includes measures to support the recovery of the National Health Service (NHS). With an investment of £5.4 billion over the next three years, the plan aims to enhance the social care workforce and enable local authorities to establish fair and sustainable rates of care.

To ensure a comprehensive strategy, the government is engaging in ongoing conversations and dialogues with individuals, organisations, and providers in the sector. These collaborations will help shape the detailed plans for adult social care reform, which will be published in a white paper later this year.

Winter 2020 to 2021 proved to be an incredibly challenging period for the nation as the second wave of the pandemic took hold. To overcome these challenges, the government released the first adult social care (COVID-19) winter plan in September 2020. As part of a continuous effort to evaluate and adapt the response to the pandemic, an independent review was conducted by Sir David Pearson, former Director of Adult Social Care in Nottinghamshire, and the Stakeholder Group.

The review found that the actions taken since the beginning of the pandemic, including those outlined in the winter plan, significantly reduced the impact of COVID-19 in care homes. While COVID-19 accounted for approximately 40% of care home resident deaths in the first wave between April and June 2020, it accounted for only 26% in the second wave between September 2020 and February 2021. These figures compare favourably to the global average of 41% during the same period.

Of the 123 commitments made in last year’s winter plan, an impressive 92% (113 commitments) were fully implemented, according to the review. Building on this success, the review made 33 recommendations for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and sector partners to action in preparation for the upcoming winter.

The government highlights the progress made in vaccination efforts, with over 95% of residents in older adult care homes now fully vaccinated, as prioritised by the JCVI. The success of the vaccination programme has allowed for the easing of restrictions in care homes and across the wider population. Moreover, a significant proportion of staff working in adult social care have received their COVID-19 vaccinations, with 88% of staff in older adult care homes and 85% in care homes for younger adults or CQC-registered home care providers now fully vaccinated.

To support the health and social care system in meeting the challenges of the upcoming winter, the government has allocated £388.3 million in additional funding. This funding will be utilised to bolster infection prevention and control (IPC), testing, and vaccination uptake in adult social care settings. Additionally, £478 million will be provided to continue enhanced hospital discharge support until March 2022.

The government remains committed to providing free personal protective equipment (PPE) for COVID-19 needs in the adult social care sector until the end of March 2022, ensuring sufficient stock throughout the winter season. Regular asymptomatic COVID-19 testing will be maintained, with the availability of more intense testing regimes for higher-risk settings. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) health protection teams (HPTs) stand ready to facilitate multi-virus testing for respiratory viruses in care homes when required.

Recognising the importance of technology in social care, the government aims to promote the use of remote monitoring, secure online communications, and connectivity between individuals in care homes and their friends and families.

To address workforce challenges, the government will provide funding for workforce recruitment and retention. Local authorities and care providers will receive support to recruit and retain sufficient staff over the winter, subject to conditions outlined in forthcoming publications.

By fostering collaboration and proactive preparation, the government hope’s to ensure the adult social care sector is well-prepared to face the challenges of the upcoming winter while prioritising the safety and care of vulnerable individuals throughout the United Kingdom.

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