The impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on care homes has been laid bare in a new CQC report. The COVID-29 Insight report, is the first in a series of discussion documents evaluating key issues that the CQC regulates, affecting health and social care during the crisis.
The 29-page document found morale to be low in the sector, with staff feeling ‘undervalued’ compared with their healthcare counterparts.
Focusing on adult social care, the report reviewed data on staff absences, outbreaks, deaths and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the impact of Covid-19 on staff wellbeing and the financial viability of services.
This first insight document focuses on adult social care: reviewing data on outbreaks, deaths and availability of PPE, and in particular highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on staff wellbeing and the financial viability of adult social care services.
It describes the need – now more acute than ever – for whole system working across different sectors to ensure safer care. It also outlines future areas of focus, including infection control both within and between services, how local systems are engaging social care organisations in the management of COVID-19, and how care for people from vulnerable groups is being managed through the crisis.
CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm said: “This new insight document begins to gather together what providers are telling us about the impact of COVID-19 – information gathered through direct feedback from staff and people receiving care, from our new regular data collection from services who provide care for people in their own homes, and insight from our regular conversations with providers and partners.
“We’re already sharing this information with local, regional and national system partners to help target support – and using it to take action to keep people safe where needed. Where providers are reporting pressures and challenges, we want to increase visibility and ask questions about what needs to happen to help alleviate them.
“This is very much a developing product – it will undoubtably change and evolve with future publications. We don’t have all the answers, but we want to share what we know to help find solutions – because we are all now operating in an environment where the need to act quickly and collaboratively has never been more important.”
The insight document said: ‘We said then that, in the absence of mitigating action, any further shocks to the labour market would be expected to increase the existing level of market fragility, place more pressure on local authority finances and possibly increase unmet care needs.
‘The troubling financial reality for some providers is that they may now face a shortfall in people using their services due to increased deaths and not being able to admit new admissions. Also, some providers are struggling financially with the cost of PPE, including having to pay inflated costs to source what they desperately need.’
Kate Terroni, CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, said there were excellent examples of ‘good joined-up care’ between health and social care professionals. ‘However, some providers are telling us that community health support has been reduced as the coronavirus response has resulted in resources being diverted elsewhere,’ she said.
‘As acute services start to move towards a more stable position, the community health offer – both to care homes and people who have care and support needs met in their own homes – must be a priority.
‘It is critical that the right focus is placed on social care to ensure that those on the front line get the assistance they need to protect the people they care for. We’ve seen what can be achieved and the impact that this has on people’s care – the challenge now is to make sure it is achieved consistently.’
The report also highlighted concerns over insurance companies informing providers that if they knowingly took in Covid-19 positive patients they would be in breach of their policy, while some operators needing to renew their policies had been unable to do so.
‘There is a risk that they may have to move residents elsewhere if this can’t be found,’ the report said.