The government has unveiled a new winter plan aimed at curbing coronavirus infections in care homes.
AS part of the UK plan, people receiving adult social care and care workers will receive free PPE until next March.
A new ‘dashboard’ will monitor care home infections and help local government and providers respond quicker, and a Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care will be appointed to provide leadership to the social care nursing workforce.
Local providers must restrict all but essential movement of staff between settings to reduce transmission, supported by an extra £546 million (€598 million) Infection Control Fund.
This is aimed at helping care providers pay staff full wages to enable them to work in only one care home, according to a government statement.
“This brings the total funding for infection control measures in care homes to over £1.1 billion (€1.2 billion) and underlines the government’s commitment to ensure adult social care has the resources it needs to keep residents and staff safe,” it adds.
Local authorities will be asked “to take strong action· where improvement is required or staff movement is not being restricted.
This can include restricting a service’s operation, issuing warning notices or placing conditions on a provider’s registration. Though further details on how exactly the plan will be enforced is expected to be set out shortly.
“We are entering a critical phase in our fight against coronavirus with winter on the horizon. Our priority over the next 6 months is to make sure we protect those most vulnerable receiving care and our incredibly hard-working workforce by limiting the spread of the virus and preventing a second spike,” said Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately, added: “Covid-19 rates have come right down in social care through the summer. With cases beginning to rise now, we must take the strongest possible action to stop the virus and protect people.”
The unveiling of the winter plan will be supported by the publishing of the Adult Social Care COVID-19 Support Taskforce.
Chair of the Adult Social Care COVID-19 Support Taskforce, David Pearson, said: “This report draws from expertise from across the social care sector and sets out the actions that should be taken to help keep people safe while maintaining their independence.
“Close co-ordination between local and national bodies within the sector is critically important to the success of the sector and will play an important part in keeping people safe and healthy in the winter months ahead.”
The report will also look at what lessons can be learned from the first phase of the virus, and sets out a number of recommendations to the government to prepare the sector and the workforce for winter.
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England, welcomed the government’s focus on care homes and said Care England “will work with them to implement the winter plan to ensure the best outcome for residents of care homes and their families”.
However, while the head of charity Age UK, Caroline Abrahams, said what she had seen of the plan was “promising”, she told the BBC she wanted to see what the plan said about visiting care homes.
“Although the devil will be in the detail, which we have not yet seen, on the face of it this plan seems to get some important things right,” she said.
“The extra funding is welcome, though a little more would give us, and no doubt providers, more confidence that they will get through the next few months without a financial crisis.”
Some care homes in England reopened again for family visits in July, provided local authorities and oublic health bodies deemed it safe.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland followed suit.
But many have maintained strict rules over visitors or outright bans.
In the first week of September, 35 homes were dealing with coronavirus outbreak (classed as having at least one positive case). In April, this figure was almost 20 times that rate.
Almost 30,000 more care home residents in England and Wales died during the coronavirus outbreak than during the same period in 2019, according to Office for National Statistics figures in July. Two-thirds were directly attributable to Covid-19.
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