The coronavirus pandemic is helping to “bust the myth” that social care nurses are less skilled than their counterparts in the NHS, according to the head of the UK’s nursing regulator.
Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive and registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, pictured above, said that Covid-19 had changed the perception of social care and may help improve recruitment to these settings.
“I’m clear that we must continue to make the most of the huge opportunities we’ve now got”
Her comments came during her keynote address at a virtual conference looking at the impact of the pandemic on the social care sector, called The New Normal.
Ms Sutcliffe, who was formerly the chief inspector of adult social care at the Care Quality Commission, said Covid-19 had brought “additional unprecedented challenges” for a sector already struggling with issues such as high turnover and vacancy levels and financial uncertainty.
She noted that social care nursing too often missed out on the “support and public acknowledgement it deserves”.
However, with the focus placed on care homes during the pandemic, Ms Sutcliffe said she believed that the tide may be beginning to turn.
“I’m clear that we must continue to make the most of the huge opportunities we’ve now got as a consequence of the immensely difficult times we’ve had, by standing up for social care nursing – not just in terms of older people, but in the interests of those people living with mental health problems, learning disabilities and physical disabilities who rely and depend on highly skilled nursing care too,” Ms Sutcliffe told the conference.
“One of the things that drives me to distraction is the perception of social care not having the same level of skill or value compared to those working in the acute sector. But the pandemic has meant we are now busting that myth.”
Her comments come reinforce a public statement she made at the end of last year that recognised the “vital contribution” of adult social care nurses and condemning the idea that their work was of any less importance than that of their colleagues in the health sector.
Also speaking at the virtual conference was Trudi Barnett, manager at Highwell House Nursing Home in Herefordshire, who agreed that now felt like a moment of opportunity to be grasped for the sector.
She said: “In over 30 years of nursing, I have never felt that my career is in the spotlight quite like it is today. It is time for our voices to be heard.
“It is time for a light to be shone on the expertise and skills social care nurses demonstrate on a daily basis in managing chronic illness and multiple long-term conditions, all without the need for a hospital admission.”
“It is truly time for us to move away from the out-dated label of the Cinderella service”
Speaking after the conference, Rachel Gilbert, head of nursing at Care UK, welcomed Ms Sutcliffe’s comments and the recognition for the world of social care during the pandemic and beyond.
“It is truly time for us to move away from the out-dated label of the Cinderella service,” noted Ms Gilbert. “Our nurses are highly skilled and dedicated and they work in purpose-built, well-equipped homes.
“They are leaders, mentors and experts within those home teams and they ensure that some of the frailest members of our society receive exceptional care day after day.”
She added: “Like Andrea, I hope the change in public perception will mean that more registered nurses, and those in training, consider joining us in social care, where they can look forward to an emotionally and professionally rewarding career.”