Reading Borough Council has written to the Department of Health and Social Care expressing concerns that local authorities are being asked to identify care homes where COVID19 positive patients could be discharged.
Care homes in Reading have responded magnificently to the COVID19 pandemic since March, and whilst the Council is aware of the financial challenge faced many care homes across the country, it believes that at this difficult time already stretched resources at local care homes are better focused on providing the best possible care for existing residents, and keeping them safe.
In a letter to DHSC Director Tom Surrey sent on Friday (Oct 16th), the Council expressed its ‘disappointment’ at the recent Government request to local Councils to find places for COVID19 patients, pending the completion of social isolation or a negative test. Instead the Council believes developing local solutions – including allowing patients to return home with a tailored package of ‘wrap around’ support and reablement – would be the safer and more effective alternative.
The letter, signed by Seona Douglas, Reading Borough Council’s Executive Director for Social Care & Health, alongside other Adult Social Care Directors, states: “….in Berkshire West we consider that it is not acceptable to ask care homes to take new admission patients who are tested positive for COVID19 and are potentially infectious. This is based on our experiences earlier in the pandemic, which have left many care settings very worn down with the impact that this has had for the residents and their families, some suffering significantly. Many of our care homes would struggle to convert their premises to accommodate safely such patients without this affecting others, despite the measures many have put in place to manage the risks.”
Due to the relatively small cohort of COVID19 discharges in Reading at this time, the Council is clear that local and personalised solutions are the best option to ensure safe discharges of COVID 19 positive residents.
The letter goes on to say: “The ‘Home First’ principle is embedded in our system as the most appropriate way to encourage independence and well-being for our residents, hence we wish to consider alternatives to those proposed in your letters in order to manage COVID19 positive discharges.”
Councillor Jason Brock, Reading Borough Council Leader, said:
“We are very clear that designating care homes for Covid positive patients, pending the completion of social isolation or a negative COVID19 test, is neither the safest option, nor provides the best outcome for patients themselves.
“Alongside our NHS colleagues, care homes in Reading and everywhere have been at the forefront of the struggle against Covid. And while many homes are struggling financially, asking them to now take in Covid patients, and everything that entails in terms of planning, logistics and resources, is a huge additional task at a time of enormous pressure. That is particularly the case where a safer and more effective solution exists in the form of an appropriate package of care being provided at home.”
Tony Jones, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Adult Social Care, said:
“Care homes and their staff across Reading have responded magnificently over recent months. They themselves know they face another extremely difficult period ahead, without them now being asked to take on another huge burden. This is a requirement which does not take into consideration the day to day running of a care setting, whether that be ensuring the right staff resources are in place, or indeed the funding. There is of course also the inevitable impact on residents already staying at their home, and their families.
“For many years the Council in Reading has successfully championed home care for people discharged from hospital as the best solution which provides the best possible outcomes for patients. We firmly believe that is the safest and most effective way forward in Reading, and we have said that to Government.
“We are also extremely surprised that while it is Councils who are being asked to provide care homes places for Covid patients, the funding for this work is instead allocated to health partners.”