The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will provide indemnity to care homes that want to become part of the Designated Setting scheme but are unable to obtain insurance.
DHSC said it will provide a targeted and time-limited state-backed indemnity to care homes, registered or intending to register as Designated Settings, that are unable to obtain sufficient insurance cover.
Care homes in the Designated Setting scheme provide care to people leaving hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are transferring to a care home.
In a statement to the House of Commons, DHSC undersecretary Nadhim Zahawi said the indemnity will cover clinical negligence, employer’s and public liability where a care provider seeking to become a ‘designated setting’ is unable to secure sufficient commercial insurance, or where an existing provider has been operating without sufficient cover.
The designated setting scheme is for people who are medically fit for discharge from hospital, those that do not need to be in an acute NHS bed, but whose ongoing care and support needs are such that they require full-time residential or nursing care.
Mr Zahawi said the government recognised obtaining sufficient insurance to accept Covid positive patients and sign up to become a designated setting has been a barrier for some care home providers wishing to join the scheme.
“Given the severity and immediacy of the pressures facing the NHS, we want to take all possible steps to remove obstacles to sufficient local designated settings provision,” he added.
Employer’s and public liability will be covered by a new indemnity scheme. Clinical negligence will be covered by the Clinical negligence Scheme for Trusts, an existing state scheme.
The indemnity arrangements will be supervised by DHSC and administered by NHS Resolution.
The indemnity will cover designated settings until the end of March 2021, with a review point in mid-February.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum – leading membership association for not-for-profit social care providers – says:
“It’s welcome news that the government has announced the state backed scheme to indemnify care providers operating designated settings. Providing full indemnity is absolutely the right thing to do. The issue of access to appropriate insurance has dogged much of social care since the outset of the pandemic, and this important step forward in announcing a state backed scheme for designated settings will enable providers operating these schemes to play their part in supporting the NHS and the wider community with assurance.
“This announcement though a positive step, does not go far enough. It is a temporary solution only committed to until the end of March, with a review due in mid-February. We continue our call on the government to address the wider insurance issues for the sector and to extend the indemnity arrangements to the entire social care sector on parity with our colleagues in the NHS. Aside from those care homes operating designated settings who have now received indemnity, care providers continue to struggle to negotiate affordable insurance cover – with many seeing substantial increases to insurance premiums, restrictions and exclusions that prevent adequate cover for COVID-19 related claims. We have raised this consistently and it is hugely frustrating that it has taken until now for the government to act.”
Care England, which has repeatedly called for the government to assist the residential and nursing care sector said it is “delighted” with the offer because the majority of care homes are in the independent sector and, unlike their counterparts in the NHS, do not have automatic indemnity.
“We look forward to working with the government to make the best of this important decision and will continue to campaign to have the difficulties associated with securing insurance cover extended to the rest of the care home sector who are crippled by sky high premiums and lack of Covid cover,” added chief executive Professor Martin Green.
Independent Care Group chairman Mike Padgham said on Twitter that the statement on insurance for designated settings is welcome “but the devil will be in the detail”.
“First impression it is a step in the right direction but likely needs to go further,” he added.