Government’s plans to create ‘COVID-19 positive’ homes runs into difficulties

Last month we reported that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was putting place plans to set up so called ‘COVID-19 positive’ care homes where patients could be discharged to from hospital rather than regular care homes.  This plan was created with the intention of easing pressure on hospitals as well as ensuring residents are not admitted to care homes whilst potentially being infected with COVID-19.   Local authorities had been asked to confirm suitable locations for such facilities by mid-October with a view to having these facilities up and running by the end of November.

However the Health Service Journal today reports that more than half of English local authorities have not responded to this request, meaning that hospital discharges are being delayed. 

There is a funding package in place for implementing these plans.  But as anticipated in our blog last month, the HSJ reports there have been numerous difficulties in implementing this plan.  These include finding suitable buildings/facilities and sourcing staff.  In particular it is unclear how such facilities are meant to be insured.  The article quotes Louise Patten, chief executive of NHS Clinical Commissioners, as saying: “The insurance issue remains a concern from the social care perspective; providers cannot absorb this cost and local authorities will be reluctant to underwrite [them]… Even if there were a negotiation with insurers at national level, providers are still concerned about potentially higher than normal mortality rates that may lead to reputational damage or issues with CQC inspections.”

In view of widespread rising levels of COVID-19 infections across the UK, it is clearly important to reduce strain on the NHS where possible as well as ensuring the social care sector is kept free of COVID-19 as far as possible.  However the creation of these COVID-19 positive homes creates a whole host of problems, and it is understandable that providers and local authorities are not keen to underwrite the risks. 

Jennifer Johnston, Associate, BLM

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