Care homes at risk again as hospital patients arrive without a negative test
Care homes are at risk again as hospital patients arrive without a negative test (stock image) (Image: Getty)
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Boris Johnson has been warned he will be personally responsible for every unnecessary death after the Government said recovered coronavirus patients could be moved to care homes without needing a negative test.
Labour ’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner accused the Prime Minister of risking “seeding” the virus among the vulnerable again.
Hospitals have been told they can discharge some patients straight to social care if they have no new symptoms or exposure.
All other hospital patients need a negative test result within 48 hours of their move to a care home.
It is widely believed Covid-19 was “seeded” into care homes during the first wave in a rush to discharge patients from hospitals and free-up space.
Speaking after a virtual meeting with care workers in the North East, Ms Rayner told the Mirror: “We’re going to seed a deadly virus into care homes for those staff we’ve heard aren’t getting the vaccine and have put their lives at risk.
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“I’m so angry and I’m absolutely astonished that the Government have learned nothing, and we’re going to do this again and people are going to lose their lives as a result.
“I wish I could give Boris Johnson a massive size 10 up his backside because he can stop seeding the virus into care homes with the stroke of a pen”.
More than 20,000 deaths involving the disease were recorded in care homes in England and Wales last year.
The latest government guidance was updated this week but has existed in some form since last month.
Ms Rayner told the Mirror “This government are so out of touch.
“It’s other peoples’ grandads, its other peoples’ brothers that are carers.
Deputy Labour Party leader Angela Rayner
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“It’s not their world, they’re not the ones that have to face this, and they’re not seeing what’s happening on the front line.
“Boris Johnson knows it’s a problem and every death that happens in care homes now will be on his watch for him not taking the action that needs to happen to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
“He’s got the tools to do it. He’s got the vaccine. He has got the means.”
News of the change broke as data revealed that most outbreaks of Covid-19 reported to Public Health England surveillance teams are taking place in care homes.
There were 977 suspected outbreaks in care homes reported to PHE in the seven days to January 10, where 739 had at least one linked case that tested positive for coronavirus.
This is up from 749 suspected outbreaks the week before.
Unison’s incoming general secretary Christina McAnea, who sits on the Government’s care stakeholders task force, told the Mirror she was urgently “demanding answers”.
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She said: “I cannot see the logic for this decision, given what happened in the first wave.
“I’ll be demanding answers about the evidence behind this decision immediately.
“It would seem to me that this risks a repeat of last year with the terrible deaths that we saw in care homes. “We have a testing regime in place and care homes know how to deal with patients being discharged under it.
UNISON Assistant General Secretary Christina McAnea
(Image: Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror)
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“Without exceptional evidence, I can’t see why that would need to change.”
The controversial guidance says hospitals must undertake a full, lab-based Covid-19 test on “all people discharged into a care home” within their final 48 hours on a ward.
But there is “an exception to this process” for some people who began suffering Covid-19 within the last 90 days, then recovered.
If they have “already completed their 14-day isolation” since symptoms began, and have no new “symptoms or exposure”, the requirement for a test before they leave hospital is waived.
The guidance says: “They are not considered to pose an infection risk.”
This is despite a separate study yesterday(THU) suggesting recovered Covid-19 sufferers may still be able to carry and transmit the virus.
PHE found antibodies from past infection provide 83% protection against reinfection for at least five months.
Senior Medical Adviser Professor Susan Hopkins said: “Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on.”
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, which represents providers in North Yorkshire, described the changes as “madness”
He said: “We want to help the NHS and have developed a system for doing that – I can’t really believe this change.
“This seems to fly in the face of everything we learned in the first wave.
“A hospital ward is a busy place, and someone being symptom-free for 14
days does not mean they are Covid-free.
“It is more pressure that care homes just don’t need.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing on coronavirus
Diane Mayhew, of Rights for Residents, which campaigns for care home residents and their families, said relatives were “beside themselves”.
She added: “The risk is that if someone with the new variant slips through this system it could rip through these homes like a wildfire.
“For more than 10 months families have been told even if you test negative you can’t come in, hug a relative – and now they hear this is happening?
“It is unbelievable, the disdain the Government is showing towards people in care homes and their families is disgusting “
Asked if the Government was repeating fatal mistakes, a No10 spokesman said: “That is categorically not what we are doing.
“The guidance sets out clearly that those in hospital who are going to be released into care homes should receive a test 48 hours prior to discharge.”
The NHS expects all England’s elderly care home residents to be offered a vaccine by January 24.
However, it takes some weeks for initial protection to kick in, and second doses of the vaccine are only due after 12 weeks.
Hospital patients who test positive for Covid-19 in their final 48 hours of their stay are not moved into care homes.
Instead, they should be “discharged into designated settings” to isolate.
But data from the Care Quality Commission shows more than a third of local authorities in England had no approved “designated setting” as of January 5.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “This guidance was published almost a month ago and approved by our deputy chief medical officers and Public Health England.
“Our priority is to ensure everyone receives the right care, in the right place at the right time.
“We have been doing everything we can to protect care homes since the start of the pandemic providing billions of pounds of additional funding, free PPE, infection control guidance, increasing staff testing and providing priority vaccines.”