A year to mark: Covid has culled our numbers while creating more disabled people too.
This wretched virus has blasted through the care homes where the residents, by their very nature, were disabled people and more with previous conditions and vulnerabilities have also been hit hard. This has reduced the number of people with disabilities in the national population.
But the disease has gone a step further: the most obvious direct consequence is all those people with “long” Covid with damage to organs and more that will limit their lives for time to come.
More insidious and probably much higher numbers are all those people who are being disabled by the delays in NHS treatment. I think of friend Peter who has already been waiting for almost a year for a hip replacement. Not only is he nearly immobile and living in constant pain, his prospects of the operation and eventual rehabilitation are many months away.
Calling such surgery “elective” seems to suggest that it is a matter of choice when, in reality, it is an absolute necessity if people are to maintain some level of independent life. Understandably, these operations have been put on the back-burner but the long-term social, financial and medical consequences will be huge.
More of these people may never recover and will be permanently disabled – so needing care and support. More will not be able to get back to work – so turning to benefit support. More will become socially isolated, poorer and more likely to acquire additional mental and physical conditions – so placing even further demand on the NHS.
It is time that the Government raised its head above the parapet of the current Covid battle to look further ahead and prepare for the long-term support of more disabled people. They were already promising a national strategy – now it needs to be a fully costed, pan-Government action plan with adequate funding and realistic measures of success. The alternative is to store up long-term costs that will be as damaging to the economy as loss of our High Streets.
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