A package of support is being put in place as part of a new initiative designed to help the city's vital health and social care sector through another difficult Covid-19 affected winter and beyond.

The City of Wolverhampton Council has asked partners to join forces to launch Wolverhampton Cares, a powerful commmitment to care providers, care workers and family carers. 

The health and social care sector is currently under intense pressure. Last month it was revealed that nearly a fifth of positions in residential care homes and home care nationally were vacant, with over two thirds of providers having to stop or limit services. This was having a knock-on effect on hospitals, causing 'bed-blocking', where a patient is well enough to be discharged but must stay in hospital as they don’t have enough support at home.

Although the situation in Wolverhampton is not yet as severe as elsewhere, partly thanks to the creation of an extra 4,000 hours of home care provision per week since the start of the pandemic, pressure is building and action is being taken now to try and help the city avoid a perfect storm of increasing demand for services at a time of acute staff shortages.

The package announced today includes an increase in the hourly rates paid by the council to homecare providers and reablement providers, the creation of more 'step down' residential beds to support people who need reablement at home but have no care available, and a commitment to work even more closely with care providers to understand how the council and other organisations can support them through what is already expected to be a very difficult winter.

A recruitment drive is underway for new care staff to work across the sector, with the council increasing the capacity of the HARP team, which provides support to adults in their own homes. On what is also Carers Rights Day, the council has announced it is also expanding the city's Carer Support Team so it is able to offer even more support to local family carers and launching a consultation on the development of a new All-Ages Carers Strategy.

Meanwhile, the council has also commissioned The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust to deliver a new occupational health service available to support the health and wellbeing of around 2,700 staff across 70 care homes in the city.

Launching the Wolverhampton Cares campaign, the Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said: "I am proud that Wolverhampton is a city in which people look out for one another, and care for each other. 

"The city's social care sector, and the city's legion of family carers, have a crucial role to play in supporting our most vulnerable residents, and it's vital they are given the help they need to do this. 

"Caring has never before been in such a spotlight, with the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting the importance of care services and at the same time exposing the pressures on our carers and care providers. 

"Wolverhampton Cares is our commitment to support the city's care sector, our commitment to care workers and family carers, and our commitment to equality of access to high quality care. We will listen to and engage with all our care providers to understand how best they can be supported and helped through the difficult winter months. It is an ambitious commitment, but we are an ambitious city - and a city that looks after its own."

Councillor Linda Leach, Cabinet Member for Adult Services, added: "We want to ensure we have the best services to support all our community. 

"The winter is always a tough time for care services and for our colleagues in the NHS and we have agreed with our local health services a plan that will hopefully ensure that services will cope with the increased demand that winter inevitably brings."

David Loughton CBE, Chief Executive of The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, said: “I personally support Wolverhampton Cares and recognise the importance of supporting all our carers who do such a fantastic job in extremely difficult circumstances.

“We at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust recognise that having a strong, dedicated health and social care workforce, and the vital support of family carers, is essential in ensuring that our health services can function effectively.

“We are seeing unprecedented demand for health and care services in Wolverhampton which is only likely to get busier over the winter months. 

“Knowing that when our most vulnerable patients are ready to leave hospital we have the carers available to help them to return home safely makes our difficult job easier to carry out and frees up much needed beds for other patients.

“We will continue to work with all our partners to ensure that Wolverhampton continues to care. We will build on all the good work that has got us through the Covid-19 pandemic to make sure we can offer our residents the best possible health and care services, every day of the year.”

Mark Axcell, Interim CEO Designate for the Black Country Integrated Care Board said: “The work by health and care partners in Wolverhampton is to be commended.
“The Covid-19 lockdowns last year cemented the importance of the care sector for all of us. The importance of the role that they play to the overall health and care system, our communities and to the individuals who they protect and serve, should not be underestimated. 

“I think it is right that the NHS works together with council partners to ensure the future for these services is a strong and resilient one throughout this winter and beyond.”  

Sarah Southall, Co-chair of the One Wolverhampton Place-Based Partnership, added: "Caring for those who care for others is so important, these people are sometimes overlooked.

"In general practice we are keen to help carers access physical health care, emotional or mental health support in order to help maintain their wellbeing and also be a route to identifying what additional support they need to make life easier.  

"Carers are urged to be mindful of the steps they can take to reduce the risk of them becoming unwell such as obtaining their flu and Covid vaccinations. For further details carers should contact their practice."

To find out more about Wolverhampton Cares, please visit Wolverhampton Cares.