Workers in the care system are dying at twice the rate of the rest of the population through coronavirus because of the government’s failings, unions have warned.
Government claims to have put a ‘protective ring’ around the care sector early in the pandemic were exposed via a new Office For National Statistics release recently which revealed the shocking death rates among care workers.
The figures show that women care workers are twice as likely as the general population to be killed by coronavirus and for male workers the figures are even worse.
Since March care homes – now all privately run – have struggled with shortages of basic personal protection equipment such as face masks and gowns.
At the same time elderly and vulnerable people with coronavirus were transferred from hospital to care homes to make more hospital beds available, virtually guaranteeing the transfer of the virus from the NHS to the care sector.
The stark ONS statistics show that in the care sector there have been 50.1 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 men and 19.1 deaths per 100,000 women. This compares with 19.1 deaths per 100,000 men in the general population and 9.7 deaths per 100,000 women.
The figures reflect a “tragic national scandal,” according to Christina McAnea, assistant general secretary of care workers union Unison.
Ms McAnea said: “ The government has failed to protect social care during this pandemic, and even now these issues are far from being resolved.
Care workers have financial pressures to work when they should be shielding or self-isolating.
Protective kit is being used for longer than is safe, and testing is still not happening.
Social care needs reform from top to toe to fix the system for good.
The King’s Fund director Suzie Bailey said: “It is a tragedy that such a disproportionately high number of social care staff have died from COVID-19.”
Hard working staff have been on the front line in this crisis, but have been let down by government promises of support that have not been delivered.
The health charity director said that “lessons must be learnt.”
The virus still poses a very real threat and care workers need to be prioritised and protected. Social care must never again be treated as an afterthought to the NHS, but as an equal partner in an independent system.
New figures also confirmed that income and occupation are key factors in vulnerability to the virus.
TUC general secretary Francis O’Grady said: “Coronavirus has shone a light on the huge inequalities in our labour market.”
We have shown our appreciation for these front line workers recently, but now let’s give them a just reward for all their efforts throughout this crisis and beyond, better pay and conditions.
Union delegate for South Holland & The Deepings CLP