“We are facing a secondary pandemic of neurological disease.”

“We are facing a secondary pandemic of neurological disease.”
Robert Stevens Associate Professor of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, US.

With medical science struggling to keep up with coronavirus and its consequences, it will be several years at least before more conclusive studies as to the long term impacts of the pandemic can be produced. The law lags even further behind.

Whilst COVID-19 has largely been considered to be a respiratory disease, more than 300 studies from around the world report a significant number of COVID-19 patients are displaying neurological abnormalities ranging from mild symptoms, such as headaches and loss of smell, to more severe variants commonly associated with mild to moderate brain injury.

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Has COVID-19 resulted in the unauthorised Deprivation of Liberty in care settings?

The data obtained by the CQC and published in the third issue of their publication titled COVID-19 Insight reports a drop in the number of notifications received from providers in respect of Deprivation of Liberty (DoLS) applications from March – May 2020 suggesting on simple reading  of the data that the answer to this question is “yes”.

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Covid-19 – ‘Bubbling’ care homes

Care homes have undoubtedly been significantly affected by Covid-19 and the manner in which cases have both spread and been controlled has been criticised across national media outlets. The Office for National Statistics, reported on 3 July that for deaths registered up to 9 May 2020, 12,536 involved Covid-19. The number may of course be significantly higher as testing has not been undertaken in every death.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/deathsinvolvingcovid19inthecaresectorenglandandwales/deathsoccurringupto1may2020andregisteredupto9may2020provisional#deaths-involving-covid-19-among-care-home-residents

A recent study by NHS Lothian and Edinburgh University , looking at care-home outbreaks in a large Scottish health board has been undertaken. The study considered 189 care homes in the Lothian area where more than 400 people died from Corona.

The study identified that 37% of care homes considered within the sample group had experienced an outbreak of Covid-19 and significantly the larger the care home, the larger the associated outbreaks. NHS Lothian and Edinburgh University found the likelihood of the infection spreading increased three fold with every increase of around 20 beds. Homes with less than 20 residents had a 5% chance of outbreak, compared with a figure between 83% and 100% for homes with 60 to 80 residents.

The concerns with how the virus was controlled in care homes is still relevant considering the potential for a second wave. Lessons can and should be learned to prevent such significant numbers of deaths occurring again and actions taken to lessen the impact of a second wave. The study found that many of the deaths were due to outbreaks in only a few locations. This essentially means there is a wide pool of care homes that Covid-19 has not broken into, and thus a wide pool of potentially vulnerable residents that will need further protection ahead of any second wave.

The possibility of creating ‘bubbles’ within care homes has been suggested. These ‘bubbles’ in a care home setting could be created from sectioning larger Homes into smaller units.  Residents would be assigned to a small sub-unit and particular staff would also be assigned to those units. This way interactions between residents, staff, and the general footfall through the home could be limited, reducing the potential spread. Staff could be assigned to certain areas, and more scheduling of bubbled staff could be introduced for the running of the care home, such as cooking, cleaning and maintenance.

This in theory sounds like a possible way to reduce the outbreaks within care homes, however this will of course take considerable planning, resources, and staffing which will in turn increase the funding required to support the care homes.  Consideration will need to be given to individual set ups of care homes, and the possibility to  create small units within them, especially for homes with residents who may be prone to wandering, such as those suffering with dementia.

Pressure will likely continue to mount on the government, requiring clearer advice, and forward planning for a potential second wave and to ensure steps are in place to prevent the impact of any second wave.


Written by Holly Paterson at BLM

holly.paterson@blmlaw.com

COVID-19 and Scottish care homes: an update

On Monday 13 July 2020 Scottish Government reported that no COVID-19 (C-19) deaths had been registered in Scotland on any of the five preceding days. However – on the same day – Scottish Government also reported that public health teams were investigating after seven new cases of coronavirus – picked up by routine testing – had been traced to a single care home in the greater Glasgow area. All seven people who tested positive were asymptomatic at the point of testing.

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How the care sector can take best advantage of business opportunities

There has been no shortage of commentary on the challenges facing care homes during the pandemic, from the number of infections and fatalities to the risk of further waves and lack of testing and PPE, along with the loss of income due to lower occupancy and reduced staff levels and reputational implications. There is speculation that some 25% of care homes may go out of business.

However, whilst these matters are real threats to businesses in the care sector, there are nevertheless some things that are well worth you considering as part of your plan for sustainable growth for a viable care business. The following are just some examples.

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Frontline health & care staff £60,000 payments

The Department of Health issued a press release confirming that families of health and care workers on the frontline in England will benefit from a new life assurance scheme during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Details of the scheme, which were first published on 27 April, are now beginning to become clearer.

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COVID-19 & RIDDOR for care providers: when and when not to report

The Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) guidance in respect of RIDDOR and COVID-19 presents a significant challenge to those responsible for reporting within a care setting. Care providers are understandably concerned that notifying the HSE of a non-reportable incident could result in an unnecessary HSE investigation. Some care providers are also concerned that a notification under RIDDOR may be construed as an admission of responsibility should a criminal and/or civil action be pursued.

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RIDDOR reporting of deaths of health & social care employees due to COVID-19

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) provided guidance on when deaths from COVID-19 or instances of COVID-19 should be reported to it.  The HSE emphasised RIDDOR reports were only required in relation to employees where a death had occurred as a result of occupational exposure to COVID-19 or a person had contracted COVID-19 in the workplace.  When deciding on whether a RIDDOR report is required, a “responsible person” within the organisation should make an informed decision on whether a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 is likely to have been due to exposure at work.

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CQC publishes data on COVID-19 deaths & persons with a learning disability

In the past few months, one of the dominant news stories has been that of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the social care sector.  This has mostly focused upon the issues surrounding elderly care.

However, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has this week published an analysis regarding deaths of persons with a learning disability and/or autism.  The analysis is based upon notifications from providers registered with the CQC where the death certificate indicates the deceased had a learning disability.  This shows in the period 10 April to 15 May there was a 134% increase in deaths in comparison to the same period in 2019.

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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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