The latest ONS data showing that disabled people accounted for six in 10 coronavirus deaths in England last year is a cause for great concern. With people with learning disabilities 3.7 times more likely to die of Covid-19 than the general population, we need urgent action to address the immediate danger to their lives, as well as longer-term reform to eradicate systemic health inequalities which account for these shocking statistics.
The move towards greater integration of health and social care, announced by Matt Hancock, offers many opportunities. The pandemic has brought into sharp relief the need for NHS and social care to work closely together; something we’ve known for years.
Health inequalities, and the long term detention of people with learning disabilities and autism in hospitals, are some of the most pressing issues where integration between health and social care can bring about positive change.
But for integration to be meaningful, any plans must ensure parity between social care and the NHS, giving both equal weight, recognition and resource.
Furthermore, we cannot forget that this is just one aspect of reforming social care. For a sector which has been neglected for so long, this alone won’t be enough. For this, we look to the promised, comprehensive plan for social care reform due this year.