On Saturday 18 April, the NCF published ground-breaking data from the independent benchmarking exercise of our members which showed the doubling of COVID-19 related resident deaths within the UK’s care homes within just one week. When scaled up this suggests that a total of 4040 people may have died of this illness within UK residential and nursing services before 13th April.

These numbers are devastating and every death is a loss and tragedy. And yet, they are not showing in the government’s daily tracking of COVID deaths. All attention has been on tracking deaths and flattening the peak in hospitals, with no data driven focus on how this virus is attacking our most vulnerable communities in our care homes. Until we understand this, we should not be contemplating an exit strategy from the current lockdown, or we risk the lives of the most vulnerable.

The data tells us government must act now. We need the same effort, partnership, innovation and resources that have gone into building the Nightingale Hospitals over the last couple of weeks to immediately be directed to building a ‘#ring of steel’ around care homes.

What do we need in a #ringofsteel?

  • Sufficient PPE both now and in the weeks ahead to protect our residents and staff in the battle against COVID. No more make do and mend treatment of social care.
  • Routine testing of both staff and residents starts now and at pace and carries on as long as we need it.
  • Support for our overstretched care workforce with proper recognition and reward and with immediate access to both the returning nurse workforce and army of volunteers that the government has assembled.
  • Care homes recognised as a key priority for support from GPs and district nurses with a specific action plan designed in partnership for each and every home ensuring swift access to clinical expertise and for care homes to have onsite the right medical equipment and resources to monitor vital signs to support early signs of deterioration and recovery.
  • Councils to pass on the £3.2bn they have now received from government to care providers to help them pay for the costs of battling COVID at speed, and as partners.
  • Health experts and geriatricians to come into care homes and help us understand how COVID 19 manifests amongst these vulnerable communities. We need the learning from hospitals about the virus to be translated into management plans that will enable staff to provide the most effective care helping care staff to determine what else we can do to stop it, what can we learn from the way it affects the people we care for and crucially, what can we do differently from that learning to help more people recover?

While all eyes have been on tracking deaths in hospital, our data shows that the number of deaths associated with the virus has been rapidly increasing amongst care home residents. Covid 19 is not going away any time soon. This has to be a wakeup call to government and society as a whole to recognise that the ‘whatever it takes’ mantra has to be applied equally to the most vulnerable in social care, as we have to the NHS.