I’ve written before about the crisis within social care. In many parts of the UK, this is being compounded by the COVID-19 crisis, with some care homes reporting a devastating proportion of deaths. Having been approached by care workers and relatives, I thought I’d take a closer look at how South Thanet’s care homes are doing.
Today, I spoke to staff in 20 of our residential homes. The picture is remarkably positive, with only one having a couple of suspected cases (being treated in hospital), one ‘quite possibly’ having had cases and one ‘not disclosing that information to unauthorised personnel’.
While some of the responses I received were brusque, many care workers and managers were pleased I’d called and happy to chat.
In general, food supplies have been getting through, with only one concern mentioned about the increasing inability to bulk buy bread and meat from the cash and carry. Other local options are being explored.
The majority of homes reported ample stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) sourced from a variety of suppliers. Others were running low on aprons, face masks and gloves. I was pleased to recommend incredible local sewing initiatives that might be able to help with fabric masks and aprons. IF ANYONE HAS ANY SURGICAL GLOVES, FACE MASKS OR PLASTIC APRONS, PLEASE LET ME KNOW SO I CAN MAKE SURE THEY REACH THE RIGHT PLACE.
The biggest issue facing our care homes is the lack of testing. Some residents exhibiting symptoms have been taken into hospital, then sent back with no indication of whether or not they’ve been tested, and have had to go into isolation as a result.
The current guidance is that, if staff exhibit symptoms for three days, they can apply to be tested at their local testing centre. The problem is that, by the time staff show symptoms, they will already potentially have spread the virus – to residents in their care and to other staff members. Plus this scheme excludes staff who may have had symptoms in the past. Added to which, staff may have difficulties transporting themselves to a testing centre.
The best thing the Department for Health and Social Care, Care England, the National Care Forum and local authorities could do would be to supply testing kits directly to care homes. This would enable staff and residents to be tested at an early stage to limit the spread of the disease among vulnerable populations.