‘High impact’ care home lockdown measures including moving staff in for four weeks and the use of NHS Nightingale hospitals were rejected by the government last month.
The 11-point plan, which included using NHS facilities and other temporary accommodation to quarantine and isolate residents, was proposed by Public Heath England at the height of the crisis on April 28, the Guardian revealed.
The government chose not to include the proposals in its action plan announced with infection control funding this month.
While the radical proposals to ask staff to move into their homes were rejected, there have been instances where care teams have taken the decision themselves in order to shield residents during the pandemic.
Nadra Ahmed OBE, executive chairman of the NCA, told us: “It continues to be a huge source of concern for care providers that government has failed to recognise the challenges faced by residents, staff and providers in the social care sector. They have missed every opportunity, based on clinical advice, to mitigate the risk to our residents and staff and relied on headline grabbing announcements to cover the ineptitude of policy. Their definition of ‘support’ bears no resemblance to the reality on the frontline.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, said the PHE proposals on locking down staff were “unworkable”, adding the body had failed to “act quickly enough to ensure that care homes had everything they needed to manage this pandemic from the start”.
Mike Padgham, Chair of the provider organisation, said moving residents out of care homes into Nightingale facilities would have been “neither desirable nor practical” and moving staff into homes would have required “significant extra pay” and required the right accommodation availability.
He added: “What is clear is that the government was slow to protect care providers in terms of ensuring they had access to supplies of personal protective equipment, a swiftly-organised testing regime and proper financial support. Those are the issues that have hampered care providers most.
“We still need help in those areas as well as a promise from the government that it will indemnify social care providers against being sued following the death of someone they provide care for from COVID-19.”
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “This is an unprecedented global outbreak, the worst pandemic for a hundred years, and we have seen that around the world this new coronavirus has had a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people.
“We have been working tirelessly with the care sector to reduce transmission and save lives, and have based all our decisions on the latest scientific and clinical advice – as a result nearly two thirds of care homes have had no outbreak at all.
“Our support for care homes has included a new £600 million fund to help tackle the spread of coronavirus, including by limiting staff movement between care homes. This is on top of £1.3 billion to cover alternative accommodation to isolate residents. We are also testing all care workers and residents, regardless of symptoms, and ensuring millions of items of PPE are delivered to the frontline.”