Managing distrust in social care—how can we shift the dial?

by | Apr 12, 2022 | Public Relations

Last month, Orpea, Europe’s second-largest nursing home, received widespread accusations of misconduct and mistreatment of elderly relatives. Following three years of investigations, French journalist Victor Castanet accused Orpea of alleged market rigging and the embezzlement of public funds. Almost immediately, a staggering $3.4bn was wiped off the company’s market value, and it has now been announced that all of France’s 75000 nursing homes are to be inspected.

Such stories of malpractice are not uncommon within social care. Narratives regarding understaffed and ill-equipped workers have prevailed for decades, and according to figures obtained by the BBC, more than 20,000 allegations of abuse of elderly residents by care home workers have been made in the last three years. It is no surprise then, that the government has announced a range of social reforms, some of which are due to come into place in April 2023. This will see a total of around one billion spent on promoting social care housing, technologies and training, and should hopefully support a wave of renewed trust in the industry.

The sector’s overall reputation, however, remains a challenge, and the pandemic has done little to redress these issues

According to an analysis by Collateral Global, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected those living in care homes. The authors of the report claim that poor testing and inadequate infection controls have exacerbated long-running problems, with the result being that care home residents accounted for an estimated 30 percent of all excess deaths during the pandemic.

It must not be forgotten, however, that social care is a vital cog in the UK’s complex system of services and support. It provides critical services to patients and families in some of the most challenging circumstances and plays a significant role in local economies. And despite stories of a few poorly managed care homes, there are many more that are simply outstanding – offering fantastic care and excelling when inspected by the Care Quality Commission. This story needs to be told in the media.

As it stands, however, even softer media narratives tend to focus on a lack of integration between health and social care services, as well as inequality in access to care and burgeoning demands from an ageing population

These issues, it is widely reported, have led to a range of complex challenges, ones that are worsened by hesitancy on digital provisions and a lack of communication between local jurisdictions.

With Covid-19 and ongoing uncertainty continuing to cause issues in markets all over the world, competition is rife, and all firms within the social care space; like companies in many other sectors, are facing more demand and greater attention on their business practices than ever before. Social care businesses will therefore need to work harder to manage their reputations, build rapport with patients and redefine what the industry stands for, and shift the dial on public perception.

More than ever, organizations are also now being judged on their fundamental beliefs and reasons for being by stakeholders. Accountability on employee wellbeing and environmental and social governance is now a priority issue, and proactivity on these sorts of issues is now an imperative for success. The scope is there—from charity partnerships to, positive corporate news, and profiling, there is a wealth of tactics available to develop more positive relationships with stakeholders and the media through an impactful healthcare marketing and communications campaign.

From providing traction for investors to enhancing reputations, driving sales, and engaging with patients, a clear communications strategy will allow social care firms to navigate these complex waters, better communicate their purpose, and stand out from competitors.

Laura Salvage
Laura Salvage is Senior Director, Strategy, at Penta.


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