The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the resourcing of care homes that is long overdue.
Following exchanges in the commons and a study by LSE it appears that 22,000 care home residents have died in England and Wales to date as a result of COVID-19 but statistics will no doubt continue to be debated with the lack of testing being a stumbling block for absolute clarity.
As in many areas, the media has looked at the scope for anticipation of disaster and if it could have been averted. Recent articles cite a report produced in 2018 by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) produced at the request of the Department of Health and Social Care, when the anticipated pandemic was influenza. That report identified that care homes needed to be supported with access to PPE, improved cross infection control and a bank of volunteers if they were going to be able to respond effectively to a significant infection risk. There has been no evidence that such resources were in place when COVID-19 hit.
Two years after the ADASS report we are seeing a shift in view – only two months ago the government prediction was that care home residents were ‘unlikely’ to be at risk of infection from COVID-19, now a support package of £600m is to be distributed to care homes via local councils.
The debate has also focused on the potential impact of patients with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 being sent to care homes.
As many individuals and organisations are planning steps to return to ‘normal’ there is (as in many sectors) real uncertainty as to what that could look like. In the care home space many are anticipating recriminations from regulators, coroners, civil and criminal courts but we need to remember the challenges they faced in securing funding, staffing and public recognition before we reach any conclusions and certainly before imposing any sanctions.
Vicki Swanton, Partner, BLM