We have all seen the headlines reporting on the heavy toll that the COVID-19 pandemic is taking upon the care home sector, and figures published yesterday by the Office of National Statistics confirm that over one fifth of deaths in England and Wales in the period up to 24 April 2020 occurred in care homes
The latest ONS statistics do not include information on COVID-19 deaths from those who rely on domiciliary care, as they only confirm how many deaths occurred in hospitals, care homes, hospices and at home. So it’s difficult to know how domiciliary care is affected – but no doubt some of those deaths that took place in hospitals or at home will include domiciliary care service users.
PPE is of course an issue for the domiciliary care sector. The government published specific guidance on PPE and infection for this sector at the end of April. We have seen reported in the media the problems faced by the care sector in obtaining PPE and discussed this previously in blogs. Where a carer is visiting numerous service users in their homes, the need for a good supply of PPE is obvious..
It’s also unclear at the moment how much disruption will have been caused by COVID-19 at present. For example will GPs and district nurses have been unable to visit those requiring care at home? Will there have been missed visits by carers due to staff shortages? We already have experience of claims that arise from carers missing visits for whatever reason.
The effect of the COVID-19 on the domiciliary care sector in terms of future litigation remains to be seen. Providers should ensure that their risk assessments for the use of PPE and infection control takes account of the current advice available, and that these are updated regularly following government advice. Providers should also be able to show that such advice and risk assessments are being adhered to by carers, especially since domiciliary carers work on their own without direct supervision.
Written by Jennifer Johnston at BLM