An NHS package of support for care homes is being brought forward due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The support, which includes a weekly virtual GP check-up on care home residents, draws on key components of the Enhanced Health in Care Homes service that was due to start in October.
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said: “The additional recognition and support for care homes is welcome and at last shows a better understanding from government and its plethora of statutory bodies about the role of care homes.
“Bringing forward the package is sensible and recognises the central role that care homes and their staff play whilst working in partnership with GPs to ensure that they can access the best care and support possible for residents.”
The support measures, which were announced by Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England in a letter to healthcare bodies, also include continuing to ensure that all patients discharged from hospital are tested for COVID-19, offering infection prevention and control support, and providing staffing support from health professional ‘returnees’ and public volunteers.
While warmly welcomed by the care sector, the pledge to bring forward the support package for care homes without consultation was condemned by the BMA.
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: “We were incredibly disappointed to see in the letter from NHS England yesterday that it intends to bring forward the introduction of key elements of the care home specification without engaging with the profession, and in the full knowledge of the serious concerns many in the profession have previously expressed about this earlier this year.
“The profession will be rightly dismayed that this element of the contract scheduled for October, which depended on an expanded workforce and additional resources, could be imposed without either being provided.
“Of course, with the shocking impact that COVID-19 is having, we appreciate that it is imperative to do all we can to help care home residents, as well as the staff, who need all the support they can get to mitigate the impact on this vulnerable group of patients and those caring for them. This includes a ready supply of PPE, timely access to testing, the guarantee that patients will be admitted to hospital when necessary, and the necessary IT infrastructure to support effective virtual consultations with GPs, community nursing teams and hospital specialists.”