New visiting regime and vaccination will stretch providers
Over-stretched are providers are calling for urgent help as they face a mountain of work to enable visiting to resume and the vaccination programme to begin.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) which represents providers, says Health Secretary Matt Hancock underestimates the reality of introducing testing across homes.
And it has also warned of huge extra pressure on homes when the vaccination program begins next month.
It has called on the Government to provide greater financial support to help care and nursing homes to cope.
It has also criticized the Government for hastily introducing legislation to prevent staff moving between care homes.
The Government has said care and nursing homes will welcome up to two visits per resident for twice-weekly tested visits. The health secretary said there would be no need for more staff to cope with the new visiting regime.
But ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “Everyone is delighted to be reintroducing visiting again as residents and their families and friends have been apart too long.
“But to suggest this will be easy and won’t entail care and nursing homes needing more staff is wide of the mark and out of touch.
“The National Care Forum* estimates that the average 50-bed care home will need to carry out an additional 1,350 tests on residents, staff and visitors under the new proposals, on top of the 450 a month already being undertaken and all, according to Mr Hancock, without needing any more staff.
“Spread across the sector that is 11m tests and 3.6m hours of testing every month, time that, without extra staff, will be taken away from providing care.
“Care providers want to do it and will do it, but they will have to find extra staff resources and for many that will be extremely tough.
“If Mr Hancock knows social care as he claims he does, he should know the extra resources this will need and would fight for greater financial support for the sector. We invite him to visit a care home on the frontline to see for himself the impact these new tests will have.”
The ICG is also concerned that a huge logistical operation to give residents and staff the vaccine is only days away.
“The vaccine is wonderful news and we cannot wait to protect our residents. But there will be a huge logistical and administrative burden on care staff to help carry out the vaccination of residents and staff.
“With the new visitor testing regime coming in and very soon the vaccination program, care and nursing homes are going to be at full stretch and many are worried about how they are going to cope,” Mr Padgham added.
The ICG was also angry that the Government rushed through legislation to prevent care and nursing staff from moving between homes during the pandemic, from the end of the year. It announced that the legislation was going through just three hours after consultation into the proposal ended.
“This shows how much interest there was in the consultation and how much understanding of the impact it would have on the ability of care and nursing homes to keep staffing levels up during Covid-19.
“We understand the thinking behind this but we already have 100,000 care vacancies on any one day in the sector, are struggling with staff absences due to coronavirus and now won’t be able to move staff between homes or use agency staff as easily. It feels like we have been fighting Covid-19 with one arm behind our backs and now they are wanting to take away the other arm too.
“It is also interesting to see how quickly the Government can move in pushing through legislation when it wants to but when it comes to supporting social care, like indemnifying providers for example, there is very little action.
“Care and nursing homes are at full stretch caring for their residents in the midst of the second wave of Covid-19. If we are to manage this new visiting regime and the vaccinations on top of that, we are going to need some help, and some help right now.”