Protecting the vulnerable in the midst of COVID-19

Our recent blogs have consistently focused on this developing saga as COVID-19 continues and as we as a nation compare ourselves to our counterparts, we are increasingly coming up short.  There is a stark message coming through that our most vulnerable have been forgotten: the elderly in care homes, the detained in mental health units and those with learning disabilities.

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CQC & ADASS emergency framework

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) established the Emergency Support Framework (ESF) to ensure the CQC could continue to practice its regulatory function in maintaining safety across health and social care settings. Although all routine inspections are currently on hold, the CQC aims to use the ESF for the purpose of collating information and intelligence from a number of sources to assist the CQC with issues such as monitoring risk, identifying where support is required and delivering safe care.

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The CQC and care homes – the COVID-19 crisis

Despite early Government promises to the contrary, it always seemed obvious that the pandemic would hit care homes (residents, relatives and staff) with some force.  A letter dated 22 May 2020 from the Relatives and Residents’ Association (RRA) to the CQC makes very clear the views of the RRA, who accuse the CQC of failing to protect care homes.

The RRA letter describes the following failings on the part of the CQC, and demands action :-

  • Inadequate provision of data on care home deaths to the Government. Failing to do so resulted in the Government having inaccurate data and under-estimating the seriousness of the situation.
  • Showing a lack of urgency, and instead complacency. For example, the CQC did nothing to rebut the early statement from Public Health England that it was “very unlikely” that care homes would be affected by the pandemic.
  • Failing to represent the needs of care homes for PPE, testing and tracing.
  • Providing guidance for care homes (the “Emergency Framework) only on 1 May, over six weeks after lockdown was announced, and even then, providing no guidance for care homes on how to deal with anxious families.
  • Allowing standards to fall due to the decision to suspend inspections of care homes from 16 March 2020. (The CQC have said they would still arrange an inspection wherever they are aware of “significant risks” such as allegations of abuse, but otherwise, any monitoring is being carried out remotely.  We understand that approximately 2000 checks of care homes have not been carried out in the last two months that otherwise would have been.)

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COVID-19 – telemedicine in care homes

As part of the guidance from the British Geriatrics Society in relation to managing patients with or suspected to have COVID -19 in a care home setting, care home staff should be trained to check the temperature of residents displaying possible signs of COVID-19 using a tympanic thermometer. The guidance states that care home staff, where possible, should also be trained to measure other vital signs including blood pressure, heart rate, pulse oximetry and respiratory rate. This information can then be used by external healthcare practitioners such as GPs during virtual ward rounds and will help to triage and prioritise support of the care home residents and their care staff according to patient need.

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Government is working to fulfil election manifesto promises regarding social care reform

During yesterday’s daily Downing Street briefing, Matt Hancock was asked by the BBC about his party’s election manifesto promises concerning social care reform.

Prior to the December general election, the Conservative party manifesto promised to reform social care.  Matt Hancock was asked at the briefing yesterday by the BBC whether the government was still planning a cap on care fees that have to be met directly, and whether  he accepted that social care reform could not be put off again.

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“CQC Insights” offers insight into key issues affecting adult social care providers

On 20 May 2020, the CQC published its first COVID-19 Insight document, said to be the first of its regular discussion documents on key issues affecting health and care.

The full document can be found here.

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MPs hear evidence of how other countries have managed COVID-19 in care homes

The Health and Social Care Committee is a cross party body of Westminster MPs that scrutinises the work of the Department of Health and Social Care and associated bodies.  It is presently dealing with several Inquiries concerning the Covid19.  One its Inquiries is looking at the management of the Coronavirus outbreak. This week it heard evidence from Hong Kong and Germany as to how these countries have managed to prevent the spread of Covid19 in care homes.

The Inquiry heard from Professor Lum, the head of Social Care at Hong Kong University and Isabell Halletz, the CEO of a German employers association for care homes.  Both gave evidence as to the strict regime put in place in respect of patients being discharged from hospitals to care homes, whereby such patients would require a negative test for Covid19 before they could be admitted to a care home.   Any persons diagnosed with Covid19 would be quarantined, as well as other people they have come into contact with.  In contrast the Department of Health and Social Care until very recently stated in official guidance that a negative test for Covid19 was not required prior to admission to a care home.

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