The Action Plan outlines various other measures to support the Adult Social Care Sector during the COVID-19 outbreak, which is no doubt welcome news to providers, especially given the recent reports of high death rates and infections in care and nursing homes.
For example the plan outlines how to safely discharge a patient from the NHS to a residential setting, including testing the patient for COVID-19 before they leave NHS care.
The report also outlines guidance for supporting residents nearing the end of their life, and clarifies that blanket DNARs (Do Not Attempt Resuscitation) are inappropriate.
As well as considering the needs of users of social care services, the Action Plan considers the position of employees. We have mentioned the new provisions in place for PPE previously. The Plan goes on to set goals of ensuring the social care sector can have the workforce that it needs This includes the launch of a national recruitment campaign for extra staff with an online platform for recruitment, swifter DBS process and rapid induction training.
The Department of Health and Social Care has also taken ownership of the “Care” brand to sit alongside the “NHS” brand, noting a legacy of the present situation should be the increase in value placed upon social care.
The Action Plan therefore sets some further clear guidance regarding how to manage social care settings in the present situation. However managing, for example, vulnerable and elderly residents with complex medical needs is always going to be tricky, and providers would do well to ensure they clearly document how they are complying with this new guidance so as to avoid future claims in relation to, for example, infection control. Providers should also ensure that any new staff are properly trained and undergo induction so as to avoid any claims from those employees as well as claims arising from poorly trained staff members.
We have noted in previous blogs that there is no long term policy for the social care sector and this new Action Plan does acknowledge that a long term action plan is required for social care. It remains to be seen how this will come into effect once the immediate COVID-19 crisis is over. Many of the claims in the normal course of events that we see can be attributed to issues such as lack of staffing and lack of clear planning for vulnerable residents. Added awareness of the needs of the social care sector would hopefully increase funding and planning in this area, but it is unclear whether this would lead to a reduction in claims generally.
What this means in terms of claims going forward is impossible to say.
Jennifer Johnston, Associate, BLM