Care providers today said they were “highly concerned” at the prospect of Covid-positive hospital patients being admitted to care homes under a new government plan.
The Department of Health and Social Care [DHSC] is writing to local authorities to ask them to identify designated care homes that can take in elderly coronavirus patients from hospitals.
The idea is to ensure that selected care homes are able to nurse and isolate residents leaving hospitals with the virus or awaiting test results.
It comes after the government came under fire during the first wave of the pandemic when elderly residents were sent to care homes without being tested for Covid-19.
Thousands of care home residents died during the first wave, with a Commons report saying care homes had been “thrown to the wolves”.
The chief executive of MHA, which runs a string of care homes in London, said he had serious concerns about the latest idea designed to protect the elderly during the second wave.
Sam Monaghan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is something that came out yesterday and we would be highly concerned – as we were at the outbreak of Covid – in terms of people who had tested positive coming into closed communities where the risk of spread is considerable.
“You are also asking staff to place themselves in the way of potentially contracting the virus as well.”
Asked about the logistics of creating covid-secure rooms, Mr Monaghan replied: “Unless you are talking about care home providers who have got buildings that aren’t yet occupied, it will be moving people out of their home, their room that they have got, if you are trying to cohort part of the home.
“You would be having to separate your staff group into those who are working with people without Covid and those who are working with Covid, and what the arrangements and protections for those staff at the heightened level of risk would be.
“And then there is the risk of transmission within that geographic space, even if you managed to create an artificial barrier between the two.”
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said it was “absolutely essential that lessons are learnt from the first wave” to avoid a repeat of what happened before.
He added: “Care providers remain under intense strain. For many, those experiences are now compounded by problems with the testing regime and uncertainties around funding, along with caution about taking on anything new or with greater risk.
“Councils and care providers will work closely together to identify the most appropriate care homes, with the priority being that any measures must be designed to keep everybody, including both those who work in and receive care services, safe and to avoid the spread of infection.”
A spokeswoman for London Councils said they were “determined to protect care home residents” from the risk of Covid-19 infection.
She added: “We recognise the overriding need to protect hospitals as the infections escalates across the capital so we ask the government to work with councils to explore all options for avoiding the risk of unsafe discharge to community provision.”
It is understood that under the proposal, no provider would be forced to accept a resident if they could not cope with the impact of their illness safely.
A DHSC spokesman said: “Our priority is the prevention of infection in care homes and ensuring that everyone receives the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
“Building on the commitments of the Adult Social Care Winter Plan, we are working with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the NHS to ensure that everyone discharged to a care home has an up-to-date Covid test result, with anyone who is Covid positive being discharged to a care home that CQC has assured is able to provide care and support for people who are Covid positive.”