Using technology to tackle the issue of COVID-19 within care homes

Release of online portal

Within some of our more recent blog posts, we have commented upon the crisis of COVID-19 deaths within care homes, together with the growing concern that the official figures for the number of these deaths could be a lot higher than that reported.

In response to this crisis, on the 28 April, the Government announced that testing would be prioritised and expanded in the care sector, to include both symptomatic and asymptomatic care home staff and residents. As a result, all care home staff and residents are now eligible for testing with priority for those in homes that look after the over-65s. To aid this additional testing, an online portal has now been released within care homes, enabling care homes to arrange deliveries of COVID-19 tests.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock has said:

“This new portal allows those who book tests for staff and residents to do so even more easily, and it also offers a route for the prioritisation of care homes with the greatest need”.

 It is said that the aim of the portal is to make it easier and quicker for testing to be carried out within care homes to prevent future outbreaks. Once the tests have been carried out, the results for residents will be communicated to the care home managers, enabling the appropriate steps to be taken to minimise the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, test results will also be provided to councils in order to help manage outbreak clusters within local areas.

Release of tracking app within Manchester care homes

An example of tackling COVID-19 on a local basis can be seen with digital technology company, Safe Steps, who has released an app to help track COVID-19 cases among residents in Greater Manchester care homes.

As advised in our blog post dated 31 March 2020, the implementation of the Coronavirus Act 2020 has made changes to the Care Act 2014, enabling authorities to prioritise services offered to those in the most urgent and serious need. In response to this, the Safe Steps app aims to help care providers assess which residents are most at risk and to accordingly prioritise their care.

It is reported that the app is simple and quick to use. It provides care providers with access to real-time dashboards, showing the updated status of the health of residents. This allows care providers to see and assess which residents require the most urgent care and act in response to this.

The app was recently released in Tameside & Glossop and has reportedly received very positive feedback. In light of this, Manchester Health Innovation have teamed up with Safe Steps and are seeking to release this app throughout the remaining 500 care homes in Greater Manchester.

With regard to defending future legal claims, care providers will need to demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to protect the residents and that they acted in line with policy. There is the potential for this app to assist with evidencing this, by showing that there was a system in place to enable care providers to prioritise their care on a risk needs basis, thereby limiting any risk of harm to residents.

Only time will tell what effect both the portal and app will have on COVID-19 deaths in care homes. Certainly, it will be interesting to see whether Manchester care home deaths fall quicker than care home deaths throughout the rest of the country.


Written by Lucy Buckingham at BLM

lucy.buckingham@blmlaw.com

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