Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister
Wales’ chronic problems in the Social Care sector have been exposed more than ever by the coronavirus crisis, and it deserves a proper solution.
Care homes and their staff have been pushed to their limits in terms of emotional and physical endurance during the past four months. A third of deaths in Wales having taken place in care homes.
There were serious delays in testing systems, with over a thousand care home residents discharged from hospital without being tested. This, coupled with a lack of adequate PPE provision and guidance, led to the Senedd’s Health Committee publishing a damning report outlining “serious failings” from Welsh Government in the handling of Coronavirus in care homes.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We have already once seen the establishment of a national service transforming the lives of ordinary people in these islands. Aneurin Bevan, the chief architect of the NHS, had a vision of free healthcare for everyone at the point of delivery. A healthcare service based on need, not on wealth. It has become a cherished and fundamental part of life in Wales and the wider UK.
Given our renewed appreciation of value of the care sector, too, during this pandemic, isn’t it a natural progression to continue Aneurin Bevan’s legacy in the land in which the NHS was born, and create a National Health and Care Service? The same spirit of care based on need and not on wealth would transform life for those needing care, their families, and those who provide care.
For some, this might seem like a huge change, an enormous investment at a scale too large to contemplate. But so too was the NHS when it was established. I would argue that now, after a global health pandemic and after a decade of tory led austerity, is the idea time to press ahead with this. Times of crisis can make us recognise the necessity of brave decisions.
This is among a number of significant proposals Plaid Cymru will put to the Welsh people at next year’s Senedd election. They include commitments on child poverty, too, as we seek to make Wales a truly caring nation from the cradle to the grave. Our promise is of a government for all generations delivering radical change for the benefit of its citizens.
Under our National Health and Care Service, free and equal care is provided to all at their time of need. Care workers who have worked tirelessly during this pandemic, going above and beyond to keep those in their care safe, would be put on the same pay terms as those in the NHS, giving this invaluable workforce the recognition it deserves.
The new integrated Health and Care framework would bring new focus on the preventative. Early intervention would help prevent the development of chronic conditions and loss of independence, and would help realise the goal of keeping people within their communities and own homes, outside of residential care for as long as possible.
More substantial change is needed than giving care workers a one-off £500 bonus, as welcome as that will be to hard-up families. Our care workers, elderly population, and families across Wales deserve a service with their best interests at heart.
Plaid Cymru is willing to offer this substantial change in the form of a national health and care service to provide care free at the point of delivery.
Aneurin Bevan is rightly celebrated for being the architect of the NHS in the teeth of vocal opposition and vested interests. The challenge to radically reform social care along the same lines as health care is one Plaid Cymru is determined to achieve – finishing Aneurin Bevan’s work.