13 Oct Coronavirus: Care homes ‘could take in elderly COVID patients from hospitals’ | UK News
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is writing to local authorities to ask them to identify a group of designated care homes to take in elderly COVID-19 patients from hospitals, Sky News understands.
The move is aimed at preventing a repeat of criticism during the first wave of the pandemic which saw elderly residents sent to care homes from hospitals without being tested for coronavirus – a policy which some care homes believe exacerbated or even caused the spread of COVID-19.
The homes would be selected because they are able to nurse and isolate residents who have the disease from hospitals and those discharged who are still waiting for test results.
The DHSC was criticised for guidelines during the height of the outbreak which sent people back to care homes untested. Some facilities said they were simply not able to provide the level of care needed and felt forced to take in the residents.
Giving evidence to a Commons select committee, Helen Whately, minister for social care, admitted some care homes – under original pandemic guidelines – had felt “under pressure” to accept people who were discharged from hospital without being tested for COVID-19 and said “that should not be the case”.
She said: “We’re working with the Care Quality Commission on inspecting and designating specific facilities that have the highest standard of infection prevention and control for people to be discharged from hospital into.”
A source told Sky News: “The government is looking at designating care homes to take COVID positive patients. We’re asking local authorities to identify these places. The aim is to stop what happened last time.”
Ms Whately also told the select committee that the government would be piloting a system which could allow residents to be treated as staff members, giving them access to see relatives in care homes.
It would mean visitors wear personal protective equipment – or PPE – and are treated as “key workers”.
Relatives cannot currently visit care homes in areas where the government has staged “interventions” to try to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Visiting rules are made by local public health authorities, though some care homes have taken their own decisions to go into lockdown ahead of official guidance.
Ms Whately continued: “I want us to enable visiting, but it must be safe. It’s not a simple as an agreement between resident and visitor.”
The pilot of the residents’ visiting programme could take place next month.