Trusts have gone ‘to great lengths’ to support care homes

A new report shows how trusts have gone to great lengths to support care homes through the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The NHS Providers’ report, Spotlight on...NHS discharges into care homes, dispels the damaging and mistaken belief that NHS organisations have systematically and knowingly discharged coronavirus patients to the home care sector. It also highlights the many ways in which trusts have been working with local authorities and care homes to help them deal with the pressures posed by the virus.

The paper sets out in how in the crucial period between the publication of discharge guidance on 19 March, and the change in testing strategy on 15 April, the vast majority of patients discharged from hospitals did not go to care homes. Instead they were discharged to other settings such as community hospitals, or to their home with support from carers, as advised in the national guidance.

Faced in mid-March with the imperative to create additional bed and staffing capacity to treat patients who were seriously ill with coronavirus, trusts worked to agreed discharge arrangements with local health and care partners. Key considerations included: overall balance of risk to individual patients, given that hospitals are not a safe environment for recovery; minimising moves for vulnerable patients; and the pressures on care providers – in some areas trusts redeployed therapeutic, nursing and mental health staff to support care.

NHS Providers maintain that trusts consistently acted in accordance with the guidance, only discharging known or suspected coronavirus patients to a care home if it had agreed it had the capacity to treat and isolate this type of patient.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: "The NHS has done everything it could to respond to the unprecedented challenge presented by coronavirus. That includes working closely with colleagues in the care sector, building on longstanding relationships to provide much-needed support.

"It is a damaging and mistaken belief that trusts knowingly and systematically discharged coronavirus patients into care homes. Health and care staff are doing their absolute best in incredibly challenging circumstances with the resources available at the time, so the blame game must stop. It will be for a public inquiry to establish why mortality in care homes has run so high. But we can see that the failures of testing to date and the supply of PPE have hit the care sector particularly hard and remain problematic.

We also note the care sector's view that the government didn’t focus on its concerns sufficiently or soon enough, and that additional funding is taking too long to get to the frontline. Beyond that it has long been clear that the sector has suffered from years of underinvestment despite repeated government promises to resolve the crisis in social care. Trusts have, and will continue to support their colleagues in the care sector, reflecting our mutual dependence and shared determination to provide the best possible protection and care for those who use our services and the frontline staff who deliver them."

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