Health and Social Care Minister Matt Hancock has said all care home residents and staff in care homes will be tested for coronavirus by early June.
Speaking during the government’s daily briefing last week, Mr Hancock said almost two-thirds of care homes had not had any cases of the virus but added the crisis had highlighted the “imperative” need to reform the sector.
According to the latest ONS data, more than 12,500 care home residents have died with COVID-19 symptoms.
A £600m Infection Control Fund was announced by the government last Friday along with a range of care home support measures, including requiring local authorities to carry out daily checks to ensure they have the support they need, assigning a clinical lead to each service and the provision of a wellbeing package for social care staff.
The support package was given a guarded welcome by Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group (ICG), who said on Friday: “We welcome today’s promises by the Government and its resolve to do everything possible to help care and nursing homes.
“However, we have had big promises made before and they have not materialised on the front line. We must wait to see if the Government delivers this time – our patience is running out and providers are struggling.”
While also welcoming the government’s support, Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), said it was “dismaying” that its response continued to overlook the rights of disabled people.
“Government must shift its response away from institutions to putting people who rely on care services at the centre of its approach,” Dr Hughes said.
“That includes providing the same access to testing, PPE and funding. We cannot continue to have a situation whereby disability services are overlooked and neglected from government’s policy responses.”
Jonathan Cunningham MBE, Chair of the North and South Sefton Care Home Group representing over 130 care homes across Sefton and founder of the Care Managers Inner Circle of 2,500 care managers across the UK, said the £600m provided for infection control was an “insult”.
Jonathan predicted that care homes would be “devastated” by a possibly impending “second deadly wave” of coronavirus, adding recent government direction had been “confusing, contradictory and dangerous”.
Kathryn Smith, CEO of The Social Care Institute for Excellence’s Chief Executive Kathryn Smith, said: “We know from our research the importance of infection control but the only way the awful headlines can disappear is to make sure that staff have an ongoing supply of protective equipment and training on how to use it effectively; any discharges back to care homes must be considered really carefully; and testing must be regular and reliable.”
Kathryn also called for testing in COVID-19 free homes.