In the last few weeks, the COVID-19 related issues concerning care homes have become increasingly more apparent and a light has been shone on the pressures homes have faced. There has been suggestion that care providers have somewhat been missed by the Government, in respect of PPE, testing of staff and residents, or those returning from hospital. Sadly, since the beginning of April, the number of COVID-19 related deaths which took place in homes among residents overtook the number of care home resident deaths within hospitals. Many have suggested the main factor in respect of this has been the lack of testing of those with COVID-19 symptoms, when they have been returning to their care homes, having been receiving treatment externally.
Release of online portal
Within some of our more recent blog posts, we have commented upon the crisis of COVID-19 deaths within care homes, together with the growing concern that the official figures for the number of these deaths could be a lot higher than that reported.
In response to this crisis, on the 28 April, the Government announced that testing would be prioritised and expanded in the care sector, to include both symptomatic and asymptomatic care home staff and residents. As a result, all care home staff and residents are now eligible for testing with priority for those in homes that look after the over-65s. To aid this additional testing, an online portal has now been released within care homes, enabling care homes to arrange deliveries of COVID-19 tests.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the resourcing of care homes that is long overdue.
Following exchanges in the commons and a study by LSE it appears that 22,000 care home residents have died in England and Wales to date as a result of COVID-19 but statistics will no doubt continue to be debated with the lack of testing being a stumbling block for absolute clarity.
Following the Prime Minister’s address on Sunday 10 May, detailed guidance has been published today on the Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy, which includes a fresh emphasis on the importance and needs of the social care sector.
Particular emphasis is given to the NHS and capacity and how to protect care homes. In particular, given the widely reported problems with the supply of PPE, the guidance sets out a specific strategy for PPE, including increased domestic manufacturing capability and more robust supply lines.
The Government also commits to bolstering and investing in the social care sector, recognising that an efficient social care sector will free up pressure on the NHS, as patients can be discharged from NHS care more efficiently to care and nursing homes.
On 6 May it was announced that five residents had died at a care home on the Scottish island of Skye at the centre of a COVID-19 (C-19) outbreak on the island. 57 residents and staff at this care home have tested positive for C-19. Ten deaths have also recently been reported at a care home in East Dunbartonshire.
Statistics from the National Records of Scotland show that by Sunday 3 May there had been 2,795 deaths in Scotland where C-19 is mentioned on a death certificate. More than four in ten of those deaths (42.8%) have been in care homes. The proportion of deaths in care homes has also been growing, accounting for almost 60% of C-19 deaths between 27 April and 3 May.
We have all seen the headlines reporting on the heavy toll that the COVID-19 pandemic is taking upon the care home sector, and figures published yesterday by the Office of National Statistics confirm that over one fifth of deaths in England and Wales in the period up to 24 April 2020 occurred in care homes
The latest ONS statistics do not include information on COVID-19 deaths from those who rely on domiciliary care, as they only confirm how many deaths occurred in hospitals, care homes, hospices and at home. So it’s difficult to know how domiciliary care is affected – but no doubt some of those deaths that took place in hospitals or at home will include domiciliary care service users.
In our previous blog piece dated 24 April 2020, we touched upon the various COVID-19 problems that the care sector is currently facing. We set out that as official figures on care home COVID-19 deaths only began on 9 April 2020, it would take time to know the full extent of this crisis. In an effort to gain better transparency on this issue, the CQC and ONS have now joined forces to release its first set of official figures.
The figures are based upon COVID-19 death notifications sent to the CQC by registered care providers. Based upon these figures, it would appear that whilst COVID-19 deaths in hospitals are reportedly starting to fall, the same cannot be said for care homes. In stark contrast, the CQC figures revealed that there were a total of 4,343 deaths involving COVID-19 in care homes between 10 April 2020 and 24 April 2020.