Lincolnshire homecare provider St Katherine’s Care has welcomed the announcement by the Government that all care home residents and social care staff with coronavirus symptoms will be tested, but says more needs to be done.
Currently the first five symptomatic residents in a care home setting are tested to provide confirmation of whether there is an outbreak. However, as lab capacity increases every day the Government is expanding testing to include all care home residents who develop symptoms.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock also promised that patients discharged from hospital are to be tested before going into care homes as a matter of course.
Colin Webb, who set up St Katherine’s Care in Lincoln in 2017, said ramping up testing of care workers is a step in the right direction. He explained –
“We’re pleased that the Government has finally realised the importance of testing in the social care sector as it is the only way of controlling the spread of coronavirus”
“One of the main issues St Katherine’s Care and the sector in general has faced is staffing. Some of our care workers have been forced to self-isolate for two weeks for no reason, as they or someone in their household has felt unwell.
“While we would of course rather they follow NHS advice and stay at home, it does make delivering care more challenging.
“Our staff have been fantastic and have stepped up to the challenge so our customers haven’t noticed any dip in service levels, but more testing would help to avoid this.”
Colin also welcomes wider testing of residents in the care home sector but says it should be extended to include people being cared for in the community.
“Many of the individuals who will be discharged from hospital in the days and weeks ahead will be recuperating from COVID-19, and some will require ongoing nursing or social care,” explained Colin.
“Similarly, people coming from the community into domiciliary or supported living care may be symptomatic and have to be cared for as possibly COVID-positive until the 14-day period has passed, within their home, following the relevant guidance for personal protective equipment.
“Thankfully, we purchased our own PPE rather than waiting for supplies from the Government some weeks ago, so we have enough to last us for the foreseeable future, but we had to pay highly inflated prices.
“However, many providers do not have the necessary PPE and despite Government pledges to support the supply, distribution is highly fragmented. This means care workers are having to put themselves and the people they care for at risk of transmission on a daily basis.
“Making testing available for all social care workers is a step in the right direction but it also needs to be made available for service users, many of whom are among the most vulnerable in our society.”
Colin also said that the social care sector is suffering from many years of underfunding by national and local government and this is being exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Despite there being over one million visits every day in the UK by carers to people living in the community, domiciliary care is often overlooked and has been underfunded for many years,” he explained.
“As a sector we do a massive amount to relieve the pressure on the NHS by keeping elderly and vulnerable people out of hospital and enabling them, when they have been discharged from hospital, to be cared for at home.
“COVID-19 is imposing significant new pressures on the sector and the £2.9 billion of funding to strengthen care for the vulnerable, announced by the Government in March 2020, has been very slow at getting to those at the front line who need it most.”