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The most intense support and scrutiny that care homes have ever received

15 May 2020

By Tim Le Couilliard, Newgate Public Affairs

Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, was back at the podium today to provide an update on social care. Noting that the virus has been shown to have a greater impact on the elderly, Hancock accepted that there has been and continues to be a need to protect those in care homes. On a personal note, Hancock revealed that many have loved ones in care homes, including the Secretary of State himself, and accepted how worrying it has been throughout this virus. In April, 31,203 residents died in care homes, of whom 11,560 died with confirmed coronavirus.

Stating that since the start of the crisis, the government has tried to “throw a protective ring around care homes” having first set out advice in February. This advice has been “strengthened” as the threat from the virus has grown. On funding, Hancock confirmed that £600 million has been recently made available to care homes in England, on top of the £3.2 billion that was made available in March and April. Noting that care homes are a devolved issue, £712 million has made available to the devolved authorities (£369 million to Scotland, £223 million to Wales and £124 million to Northern Ireland).

Currently, tests are being carried out on any resident returning to care homes from hospital as well as all residents and carers with symptoms. Hancock stated that 64% of care homes have been “protected by these measures” and have not had any coronavirus cases at all. Hancock was pleased to announce that since the peak of the outbreak, deaths in care homes have halved. Citing the UK’s testing capacity, all care home residents and staff, with or without symptoms, are now being tested with everyone being tested between now and early June.

NHS support is also being extended within social care. There is now to be a named clinical lead for every care home in England who will check in regularly to asses residents and provide clinical advice to support staff. This marks the “most intense support and scrutiny that care homes have ever received”. The NHS is also supporting care homes in implementing the technology for video consultations (which will have the dual purpose of enabling families and friends to check in on their loved ones in homes).

Local authorities are also now being required to conduct daily reviews of the situations in care homes, to ensure care homes get the support they need, “every single day”. Care home data will also be required to be “flowing”.

Stating that this crisis has demonstrated the need for reform, and shown the importance of closer working between health and social care, Hancock suggested that these new measures would lead to far wider and longer lasting reform to both parts of his ministerial brief.