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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Visits to care homes during lockdown

The topic of visiting care home residents continues to hit the headlines this week. 

The government published guidance for visiting care home residents this week. Previously care home visits had been banned in Tier 2 and 3 areas.  The new guidance confirms that visits may continue during the lockdown period for England, so long as this is done in a COVID secure manner, using for example PPE and social distancing, and recording visits for Test & Trace. The new guidance comes following widespread pressure from charities and industry bodies to allow visits.

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No testing for CQC inspectors: does it risk a breach of the requirement to provide safe care?

The Department of Health and Social Care has made the decision to deny testing to Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors, placing service providers at risk of breaching their requirement to provide a safe care environment.

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New COVID-19 measures announced for care homes in England

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has this week written to English local authorities outlining plans to set up specific homes or units for people being discharged from hospital who are COVID-19 positive or are awaiting a test result.  The DHSC has asked local authorities to identify suitable settings by the end of this week, with a view to having these facilities fully operational by the end of November. 

This plan was hinted at in the Adult Social Care Plan that was published in September 2020, and follows existing requirements for all persons being discharged from hospital to a care home to have a COVID-19 test before discharge, and isolate for 14 days in any case upon admission or re-admission to a care home. 

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Charity launches legal challenge to restrictions on care home visits

A dementia charity is seeking a judicial review of visiting restrictions set out in the government guidance in care homes.  Visiting restrictions were put in place earlier this year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic following official guidance to try and limit the spread of the virus amongst vulnerable residents.  However John’s Campaign, which fights for people with dementia to be supported by their family carers, says that in person visits by family members are crucial for these residents. 

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How many deaths in care have there actually been?

It is no secret that the spread of COVID-19 within the care sector has been the subject of significant media attention and cause for concern amongst those involved with care. But how hard can it be to answer the question: ‘How many deaths on care has there actually been?’ The answer is: it’s all in the detail. Continue reading “How many deaths in care have there actually been?”

“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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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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