ITV aired a documentary – ‘Care Homes: The Long Year Alone’ – which looked at the care sector and the experiences of residents and staff during the pandemic.
Many of those who work in the care industry felt the depiction was unfair and unbalanced, and so wanted to voice their views.
Two prominent care organisations within Surrey have responded; the Surrey Care Association, which represents more than 400 members across the county, as well as a response from CHD Living, a care home group operating 13 care homes in Surrey and South London.
Simon Carter, Chair of the Surrey Care Association, said:
“As an association, we’re incredibly disappointed by the portrayal of the care sector in ITV’s documentary ‘Care Homes: The Long Year Alone’.
Despite some sympathetic elements, the overall sentiment of the programme was negative in the extreme, with the care sector portrayed as one shrouded in unrelenting gloom.
The care industry is under enormous pressure, that much was clear. However, the way in which this was depicted by ITV failed to highlight many of the root causes.
Much of the pressure that providers are experiencing is beyond their control, relating to Government policy or other problems further along the healthcare chain – such as patients being discharged from hospitals without receiving a negative COVID-19 test. They then bear the brunt of these failings.
But despite these issues being touched upon by the programme, there was little nuance or deeper exploration of the issues raised. They were simply portrayed as factual accounts, with next to no attempt to provide a balanced view, or to offer explanation.
One particular line in the programme stood out: “COVID has shone a light on all that’s wrong with the system.”
The colossal burden of the pandemic inevitably highlights failings, and we should never shy away from areas that need improvement – particularly where patient safety is at risk. However, the COVID crisis has also shone a light on all that’s good within our sector, something that simply wasn’t evidenced here.
The vast majority of carers and care providers have been doing outstanding work in the face of almost unbearable strain and in the most trying of circumstances.
We would have hoped for a documentary that highlights some of the wonderful work that so many carers have been doing. Instead, we faced a bleak, depressing and unbalanced representation of our industry that is far removed from the experience of the Surrey Care Association and its members.
Most care homes are peaceful sanctuaries that deliver quality care, all while being staffed by teams who form real bonds with residents and genuinely care for their wellbeing.
We fear though that an industry already stretched to the point of breaking, has been dealt a hammer blow by ITV’s unfair depiction.
One of the biggest threats to the provision of quality care is staffing – with staff having to isolate, and many more choosing to leave the care sector altogether due to the mental and physical toll of the pandemic, recruitment levels are in crisis. By looking at the extremes and not the norms of our sector, this programme will just serve to exacerbate the problems for care workers, care providers and care recipients alike.”
Jon Stanley, Chief Operating Officer of CHD Living, said:
“It’s undeniable that the pandemic has been a challenging time for our industry, however last night’s documentary provided an extremely unfair and inaccurate account of what’s been happening within care homes across the board, which is incredibly difficult for us to ignore. Although unfortunately there is a small number of poorly operated care homes, there is also a huge number of fantastic facilities that work hard to care for and protect their residents. Such biased and one-sided reporting is a huge injustice to the millions of care workers doing such a great job, and only serves to reinforce the common misconceptions about care homes. In reality we are a safe place for the nation’s most vulnerable and have stringent protocols in place to minimise the impact of this unprecedented virus on both residents and staff.”