Members of the National Care Forum (NCF), the leading representative body for the not-for-profit social care sector, have highlighted growing concerns that frontline care homes need more clinical input to fight the challenges of Coronavirus head-on. They are calling for more direct input from their health sector counterparts.

Last week, it was revealed by the NCF that more than 7,500 care home residents had died of Covid-19 before 13th April – more than 4,000 of those passing away within their care home residence. The social care sector, in supporting many of society’s frailest and vulnerable individuals, is on the frontline of this crisis.

Care homes urgently need more input from GP’s and other community clinical leaders, to ensure frontline care managers are not faced with the reality of responding to this enormous health challenge alone.  It warns that without improved clinical input, care home residents and staff face greater risk, and that many more care home residents may require support within hospital settings – placing greater demand on the acute NHS services.

The NCF is asking that every care home has a minimum standard of access to GPs for emergency advice, as well as regular phone and online consultations to share clinical best-practice. They are also requesting that every care home is provided with the essential medical monitoring devices and medication necessary to respond to an outbreak.

The NCF believes that it is essential now, more than ever, that there is a consistent joined-up health and care approach to managing this pandemic in care homes and the wider community. It is asking for GP’s, community nurses, Allied Health Professionals and acute clinicians to help build a ‘ring of steel around’ vulnerable care homes, to do everything that is reasonably possible to protect the health of their residents.

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum, says:

“If a person was to enter a hospital with the acute effects of COVID-19, they would rightly be given the clinical support that they need as an absolute priority. Unfortunately, the frontline of this virus has moved into care homes, and the clinical focus needs to shift with them.

Care homes have highly skilled and talented social care experts in their ranks, but they need the input of specialist clinical support to respond to such a complex and unpredictable health crisis. It is essential that they have the support of specially trained health professionals when necessary, and that they are given every resource required to prevent, prepare for and mitigate the impact of a Coronavirus outbreak.

People living in care homes have the same right to health care as anyone else in the country. The vision for our nation, both now and into the future, has to be one of health and social care working in harmony for the good of all people. Now, as we face the biggest health crisis of a generation, this is the absolute moment to make that vision a reality.” 

This appeal comes just one week after the NCF shared a national review of the impact of Coronavirus on care homes, where it highlighted the desperate need for Government to provide greater support to care homes and the wider social care sector. The review highlighted ‘widespread concerns about the lack of prioritisation of social care, including access to PPE, a lack of testing within care home settings, and considerable financial and operational pressures’.

The National Care Forum is continuing to highlight these issues, with many providers sharing that few meaningful changes have been observed in frontline-care homes to date to aid their fight to keep their residents safe and well throughout this crisis.

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Editor’s Notes:

  • The National Care Forum brings together 115 of the UK’s leading social care charities. Collectively, these charities deliver more than £1.9 billion of social care support to more than 135,000 people in 6500 settings. The NCF membership body collectively employs more than 85,000 colleagues.
  • The data quoted reflects contributions from 47 NCF member organisations, covering 7.4% of the adult social care residential population.
  • In the period of 6th March to 7th April, these 47 members had a total of 102 suspected or confirmed COVID-19 related deaths within their care homes. Between 7th April – 13th April, these numbers escalated to 299 – an increase of 197 in one week alone.
  • When scaled up to reflect the UK’s total care homes population of 411,000 people (source: CMA), this suggests that a total of 4,040 people may have died of this illness within UK residential and nursing services before 13th April. Factoring in the deaths of individuals who were admitted to hospitals, these figures project that 7,337 care home residents have passed away as a result of COVID-19.
  • More information is available on the National Care Forum at nationalcareforum.org.uk. @NCFCareForum @vicrayner @NCF_Liz
  • For enquiries, please contact Edna Petzen ([email protected]).