Potential impact of carers refusing to be vaccinated

As shown in the BLM Policy blog of 15 December 2020 (link here), COVID-19 (C-19) compensation claims appear to be gathering some momentum although, at this point, the total number of such claims that have been officially registered with the Compensation Recovery Unit of the UK Department for Work & Pensions remains very low.

As we have noted previously, new and untested questions on standard of care and legal causation would likely arise in any litigated C-19 claim. In this blog, we re-visit certain aspects of these potential questions in the context of vaccinations for care home staff.

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The continuing search for answers on COVID-19 and care homes north and south of the border

North of the border

As at 29 November 2020, there had been 2,315 COVID-19 (C-19) related deaths in Scottish care homes. On 27 May 2020, the First Minister of Scotland committed Scottish Government to holding a public inquiry into the handling of all aspects of the C-19 pandemic, including those relating to care homes, however calls are growing for a more immediate inquiry into the care home aspects.

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“Busting Bureaucracy” a step in the right direction?

On 24 November, the Department of Health and Social Care announced a new drive to ‘bust bureaucracy’, locking in changes introduced in the pandemic with the aim of allowing front line health and care staff to focus more on care provision and less on paperwork. Here, I focus on the changes that may be of the greatest interest to regulated organisations and individuals.

The report can be found here.

A call for evidence was made in July, with the message in response highlighting that changes introduced in light of the pandemic were changes made for the better. Respondees did not want to revert to old ways.

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COVID-19: does the response of the regulators call for a fresh approach?

During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare regulators reviewed their processes and made a joint commitment to take human and environmental factors into consideration when determining whether a complaint/incident reached the threshold for fitness to practise action.

In addition, the country saw an outpouring of support and affection for healthcare practitioners working hard to treat patients in hugely pressured and trying circumstances.

Alongside the guidance on relevant factors to consider during the life of an investigation, emergency registration was granted to recently retired practitioners under emergency powers granted by the Coronavirus Act 2020. Notably,  the GMC introduced guidance for decision makers on requests to relax or revoke sanctions or IOT orders in response to COVID-19 which allowed those whose registration was subject to restriction to apply for an early review of that restriction.

Do these changes reflect a change in what may be determined in the public interest and can healthcare professionals be reassured that such changes will remain in place once the impact of the pandemic has subsided? It may be more apposite to ask whether they should remain in place.

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Assistive technology in a reformed social care system

We wrote in 2019 about the role of assistive technology in how it could help social care users.  A new Commission by two care bodies has now been launched to explore the role of assistive technology in a reformed social care system.  The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the weaknesses and frailties of the UK social care system.  What role could assistive technology play in creating a more robust social care system for the future?

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High Court gives permission for judicial review into care home policies taken at start of pandemic

We wrote at the end of October about the crowdfunded legal challenge being brought against the UK Government in relation to their response to care homes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday, in a remote hearing, Mr Justice Linden gave permission for this legal challenge to proceed to a full hearing.

The claimants, Dr Cathy Gardener and Fay Harris, are seeking a judicial review of the policies and related measures which had a bearing upon the protection of care homes between March and June 2020. They first formally brought their legal challenge in June, following the death of their fathers (who were both residents in care homes) from COVID-19 in April and May this year. As we have often reported in this blog, tens of thousands of care home residents have tragically died in care homes from (either confirmed or probable) COVID-19, since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care – Health and Social Care Committee Oral Evidence

The Health and Social Care Committee, chaired by Jeremy Hunt MP, has launched a new inquiry to examine workforce ‘burnout’ across the NHS and social care. The focus of the committee is on workforce planning, including the effectiveness of the NHS People Plan. The level of training needed to meet the demands of the Health and Social Care Sector is also being examined.

With the media’s focus throughout the pandemic being fixed upon the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the mortality rate,  it is easy to forget the impact being felt by frontline workers. The Committee has now heard from a number of key witnesses whose evidence has shone a light on the struggles being faced.

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Study suggests excess death toll in care homes from Covid-19 has been hugely underestimated

An early draft of a study from the University of Manchester suggests there may have 10,000 more deaths of care homes residents than previously reported.  The study compares statistical data on deaths in care homes between January 2017 and February 2020 with data from April to August 2020. 

This study has not yet been peer reviewed, but notes that of the excess deaths, 65% were only directly attributed to Covid-19.  That leaves the remaining 35% (10,000 deaths) that were not officially attributed to Covid-19.  The question is what caused those excess 10,000 deaths. 

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Care homes and visiting- the latest news

We wrote at the start of this month about the government’s plans for visits to care homes and how this could be implemented in a Covid-secure manner.  Such plans however were heavily criticised by the care home industry and families of residents.  The government’s proposed measures required equipment such as screens and intercoms, so would cause difficulties for residents with dementia or cognitive difficulties, not to mention putting extra financial strain on homes in funding this equipment. 

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