Monthly Archives: September 2020

gk - testing is the key to the success of the adult social care winter plan

Testing is the key to success of the Adult Social Care Winter Plan

By Phil Hope, former Care Minister and GK Adviser

The Adult Social Winter Care Plan published recently is hugely important as it sets out the national support available for the social care sector for the next six months of the winter and the main actions to be taken by local authorities, NHS organisations and social care providers including the voluntary and community sector (VCSE).

There is a sense that older people have borne the brunt of this pandemic and that care homes earlier this year did not receive the support they needed in terms of protective equipment, staff training, access to testing and infection management to ensure their residents were safely cared for.

The wide-reaching Plan responds directly to many of these concerns and includes much needed additional £500 million for the Infection Control Fund (ICF), free PPE via the PPE portal and local resilience forums, free flu vaccines for all health and care staff, a new Adult Social Care dashboard of critical data, and the welcome appointment of a chief nurse for social care in the Department for Health and Social Care.

The Plan sets out a series of key actions to be taken by local authorities that relate to both self-funded care providers and local authority commissioned services. It requires them to put in place their own local winter plans that address local inequalities and involve the NHS and the VCSE in their development. It expects local authorities to distribute the additional ICF funding as quickly as possible, provide free PPE to all care providers including to personal assistants and ensure care providers carry out Covid-19 testing as set out in the sperate testing strategy.

The Plan also expects care providers to update their business continuity plans with a particular focus on workforce resilience, make use of the additional ICF funding, reduce the movement of staff between care settings, provide relevant data through the Capacity Tracker and ensure symptomatic staff and recipients of care are able to access Covid-19 testing as soon as possible. Care providers are also expected to develop a policy for limited visits in line with local and national PHE guidance.

The requirement that patients being discharged to care homes must be tested prior to discharge from hospital is welcome but it is essential that results are made available. Care homes must not again be put under undue pressure to accept COVID-positive patients from hospital, and must be supported to provide adequate accommodation and isolation facilities for residents returning from hospital. The development of a designation scheme for premises that are safe for people leaving hospital who have tested positive for Covid-19 or are awaiting a test result is of particular importance.

Most, if not all, councils care providers will also have stocked up with months of PPE supplies in advance of the Plan as part of their pandemic planning and the government should make clear that they will be compensated for these costs through the free PPE pledge.

The main concern in the sector is the effectiveness and efficiency of the testing system. The success of the winter plan will fundamentally depend upon ready availability of Covid-19 testing for care home residents and staff. Work to ensure that tests can be turned around rapidly, and the results conveyed to care homes, should be an immediate priority. The failure to provide sufficient testing capacity or deliver rapid results from test samples will make action by care providers to ensure the safety of their residents, staff and volunteers extremely difficult. Test results that take 5-7 days to turn around for example are of no use to care home providers. Many will take a precautionary approach in the absence of reliable data and this could lead to higher costs and increased isolation of care recipients from their families and friends.

For the long term it is unclear when a new settlement for social care will be put in place. System and funding reform is still on the government’s agenda but is on hold whilst the focus for adult social care is for everyone to receive the care they need throughout this pandemic. So, the challenge for social care remains – to be given parity of esteem with the NHS and to receive a very substantial funding increase in order to provide affordable care for many more people who need it.

GK are experts in social care policy and have supported many providers in the space over the past 11 years. If you would like to speak to one of our consultants please contact

GK Strategy hires Alistair Burt and John Griffith-Jones

GK Strategy hires Alistair Burt and John Griffith-Jones

Former Conservative MP & Health Minister Alistair Burt and ex-Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Chair John Griffith-Jones have joined GK Strategy, the public affairs agency announced today.

The pair have been appointed as Strategic Advisers to bolster GK’s strategic counsel offer to clients in the health and financial services sectors. They join former Lib Dem Education and Treasury Minister David Laws and Labour’s former Care Minister Phil Hope on the agency’s advisory team.

Burt served as Minister of State for Care at the Department of Health, overseeing primary and community care and mental health. He has held several ministerial roles over a 33-year career as a Conservative MP, including at the Foreign Office, Department for International Development and Department for Social Security. He left the Government and stepped down from Parliament in 2019.

Griffith-Jones was the inaugural Chair of the FCA from 2013 to 2018. He brings additional experience in financial services from his prior career as UK Chairman and Senior Partner at KPMG.

GK Strategy is an independent strategic communications agency working with clients in the public, private and third sectors to influence public policy and shape reputations. Health and care organisations make up GK’s largest client segment in the public affairs market, while the agency also pioneered political due diligence services for the private equity industry, advising on 325 deals worth over $15bn across a range of sectors to date.

Alistair Burt said:

“I’m excited to be joining GK at a crucial time for the health and social care sector. COVID-19 has quickened the pace of reform for the care sector and crucial NHS legislation is expected in the New Year. I’m looking forward to working with GK’s clients to help them navigate this period of change.”

John Griffith-Jones said:

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the economy, which will be felt by the financial services sector acutely. The sector also faces many other challenges, from a shakeup of audit regulation to changes caused by the digital revolution and a greater use of big data. I look forward to helping the sector find its voice, in order to meet its challenges head on and drive the UK economic recovery.”

Robin Grainger, CEO of GK Strategy, said:

“Organisations across the health and care sector and financial services sector are increasingly seeking support on strategic communications and policy research. Alistair and John bring decades of experience from government and the private sector to advise our clients on policy engagement and political risk, and we’re delighted to have them as part of our growing team.”

Notes to Editors

  • About GK Strategy: GK Strategy is a strategic research and communications agency. GK provides public affairs services to clients in the public, private and third sectors and political due diligence to the private equity market. Visit background information on GK.
  • Ethics: GK Strategy is a member of the PRCA Public Affairs Board and complies by its Code of Conduct. All consultants, including Strategic Advisers, are registered publicly on the PRCA Register and forgo the right to a parliamentary pass. For more information, visit
  • Further information: please contact Edward Jones at or on 0774 9677 543 with any questions.
gk Coronavirus reveals the unsustainability of the Government’s devolution dualism

Coronavirus reveals the unsustainability of the Government’s devolution dualism

By Ioan Phillips, Analyst at GK

If Boris Johnson’s name is linked to any political idea, then it is ‘cakeism’ – the belief that it is possible to govern without making trade-offs. On devolution, the PM’s cake is in danger of toppling over.

Coronavirus has stalled government plans to devolve more powers to English regions while highlighting the limitations of centralisation – especially in healthcare delivery. Health devolution is already under way in places such as Greater Manchester, London, and West Yorkshire. However, the Government is yet to develop a coherent vision as to how this should be applied across England. Expect then to see pressure from local government for greater decentralisation in this area – both in terms of policy-setting and procurement powers.

The pandemic also threw into sharp relief the impact of a decade of austerity on England’s councils. Funding cuts made by central governments meant many struggled to provide vital services, or deal with increased demand for them arising from coronavirus. Although the Government told councils to do “whatever it takes” to protect communities, whether this rhetoric is backed up with a substantial long-term funding uplift remains to be seen. Uncertainty over future funding (particularly regarding the form the UK Shared Prosperity Fund takes), coupled with reductions to income streams as a result of coronavirus, suggests councils will seek to consolidate or enhance existing revenue sources amidst the deepest recession in 300 years.

Over Hadrian’s Wall, the perceived missteps of the UK Government in dealing with the pandemic has brought Scottish independence back to the fore. Polls regularly put public support for it at 50% and above – a recent survey found 53% of Scots in favour. The governing SNP is also polling at record levels. The psephology points to a majority for pro-independence MSPs at next year’s Holyrood elections. This shift in constitutional sentiment has stirred the UK Government into action. A ‘Union Unit’ has been established in Downing Street; the PM frequently challenges the SNP on devolved matters, while Whitehall is said to be planning a spending programme intended to show Scots the advantages of staying in the union.

At the same time, the Government’s framing of post-pandemic economic recovery in strongly unionist terms in its new white paper on the UK internal market is fermenting new tensions with the devolved administrations. Although the UK’s four governments all accept the development of a series of ‘common frameworks’ to harmonise standards and regulation, the UK Government believes it should have sole responsibility for the terms of future trade deals. But the devolved administrations have responsibility for many of the areas – including controversial aspects, such as food standards – that will be covered by future deals. Once the deals are concluded, there is a risk that the devolved administrations could simply refuse to implement parts of them.

The internal market is just the latest example of how the Government is setting itself on a collision course with the devolved administrations. This trend is here to stay – and with it, greater political contestation of policy-making and regulatory powers. The Government’s reluctance to devolve further powers to national legislatures is in sharp contrast to its regionalist ‘levelling up’ mantra. The long-term sustainability of this devolution dualism is questionable, though.

GK Strategy works with many firms operating within what look set to be fluid fiscal, political and regulatory frameworks in the years ahead. Using our extensive knowledge of policy, political, and regulatory trends, we can help investors and businesses to address risks and identify business opportunities at a local, regional or national level.

For more information, please contact Martin Summers, Head of Investor Services, on