A report for Sheffield City Council Scrutiny Committee has slammed the Council’s response to COVID-19.
The report, which will be discussed by the Council on Tuesday 16th June, highlights concerns raised by families, staff, advocates and care homes. 
The briefing papers reveal that there have been more deaths in Sheffield’s care homes than there have been in the city’s hospitals.
Among the findings, the report criticises the Council for:
- Increased bureaucracy, with an overload of requests for information and forms to fill in for various agencies
- Incorrect information/guidance being sent out
- A blame culture and lack of moral support
- Difficulties in obtaining responses to queries on finance and funding
- Delay in getting crisis funding to the frontline, and that the crisis funding is insufficient to cover the additional costs of the Covid-19 emergency
- Accessing PPE has been difficult and expensive
- Concerns about patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 being discharged back into care homes, or care home residents not being tested before hospital discharge
- Availability and guidance around testing lacked clarity, and that the testing process was bureaucratic
The report also highlights Sheffield Care Association’s concern that at the height of the pandemic response (9th April), SCC announced a real-terms cut in funding to the city’s care homes.
Nicola Richards, Chair of the Sheffield Care Association, has been at the forefront of campaigning for better support for care home residents and staff during the pandemic. She runs Palms Row Health Care which operates three homes in the city.
Ms Richards commented:
“It makes for shocking reading to see the concerns of residents, staff, advocacy groups and care home providers laid bare in such a stark report. This represents the reality of front-line life during COVID-19.
“The damning evidence presented to councillors should make them sit up and realise that they are presiding over a crisis in our care homes.
“Urgent action is needed, especially in terms of ensuring the city is prepared for a second wave of COVID-19 and an independent review into the long-term funding of the city’s care sector is long overdue.”
Among the recommendations made, the report suggests the Council considers:
- Adequate emergency funding to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and support emergency costs.
- An independent strategic review of care home funding in the city to ensure a viable future for care homes.
- Recognition of the challenges faced by home care providers in terms of recruitment – particularly if the covid-19 emergency leads to an increase in demand for home care.
- Consideration of the impact the ‘Test, Trace and Isolate’ system might have on staff absence in care homes and home care.
Bal Kharia, owner of Vitality Care Homes, is also a member of the Sheffield Care Association and added:
“Care homes in Sheffield have been in a fragile state for a number of years and this was before the COVID-19 crisis began. Recent events have put us under intense pressure and the Association is extremely concerned that care homes will soon face closure.
“The people this will affect hardest are the most vulnerable in our communities – our residents. It will also have a huge impact on our dedicated and loyal staff who have worked miracles during the COVID-19 response.
“We need a cast iron commitment from the Council to guarantee funding levels, protect our services and an independent review of the cost of care in the city.”