Talks are being held on emergency measures as the care sector faces the loss of up to 220,000 workers going off sick due to the coronavirus.
The Guardian revealed the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has begun talks with nursing homes and care home operators on how to pool workers in the event of large numbers of care workers being forced to go off sick or self-isolate due to the virus.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “The UK is extremely well prepared for these types of outbreaks and Public Health England has issued tailored guidance for care providers setting out action to be taken in a variety of circumstances.
“We are working with partners including ADASS, LGA and the Care Providers’ Alliance to support local authorities and care providers in making the best possible preparations.”
Options being explored by the Government include relaxing background checks to allow people to re-enter the workforce faster to fill vacancies in stretched areas.
Nadra Ahmed OBE, executive chair of the National Care Association, warned of “massive challenges” in the sector if large numbers of staff have to self-isolate.
Studies of the outbreak in China have fond fatalities for the over 80s at around 15% compared with 1% for those under 50.
Nadra added: “We have to anticipate there will be some fatalities, but it won’t be for want of trying.”
So far, there has only been one report of a nursing home being forced to close temporarily due to contact with someone with the virus.
Guidance for care homes on how to deal with the outbreak was by issued by the Government last month.