More than a quarter of people who receive social care from the NHS have seen their health deteriorate during the coronavirus pandemic, according to research.
A survey of more than 4,000 people with social care needs and carers from the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) found that 28% had seen their health decline, while one in seven people required hospital treatment due to a lack of care.
The CSA reported that older and disabled people had been left struggling with daily activities and missing medical appointments, with a quarter of those who said they had trouble carrying out daily activities also reporting that they were not given help by authorities when they asked for it.
About 15% of respondents said they felt neglected and 18% felt scared when asked how they felt about the care they had received during the pandemic. Of people with learning disabilities, 34% said they felt lonely or isolated and 25% had not been able to leave the house due to a lack of support.
But the research also suggested unpaid carers had seen their health impacted by care responsibility, with 17% who took part in the study reporting that their health had deteriorated due to their responsibilities.
The CSA said the results showed that poor social care â€œunderminesâ€ peopleâ€™s health, makes it â€œdifficult or impossibleâ€ for people and their carers to live fulfilling lives, and piles pressure on the NHS.
The body called for the government to urgently bring forward its proposals for reforming the care sector, which it has pledged to set out later this year, and to address service and staffing gaps. It also called for improvement in the quality of social care, and greater work to ensure people can access the help they need.
Sue Gallagher, who cares for her husband, Bernard, who has Lewy body dementia, said she had experienced first-hand the impact of the lack of social care during the pandemic. Bernard ran away from the care home he was staying in to give her some respite, and ended up spending 11 weeks in hospital, a situation she believes could have been avoided if she had been given greater support while caring for him at home.
â€œThe lack of adequate social care support before the pandemic started was a real issue and because of a lack of care during the pandemic he spent much more time in hospital than should have been necessary,â€ she said. â€œFamilies like mine continue to find things difficult. Iâ€™m worried about the lack of support for peopleâ€™s conditions, as well as for their loved ones at home.â€
Caroline Abrahams, CSA co-chairwoman and charity director at Age UK, said some older people had rejected care out of fear they would contract coronavirus by bringing people into their homes. Others had received an â€œerratic or reducedâ€ service due to staffing shortages.
â€œOur new survey shows how a lack of social care during the pandemic has diminished the lives of many older and disabled people, and their unpaid carers, and put their health at risk,â€ she said. â€œThis has piled further pressure on the NHS when this was the last thing our overstretched health services needed.
â€œAs we start to imagine a world beyond Covid-19, it is vital that the government extends its pandemic funding for care services and follows through on its pledge to bring forward reform proposals to fix social care, once and for all.â€