Following reports of the increased spread of coronavirus in care homes, Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow social care minister has written to Matt Hancock to set out five key areas where she believes action is needed from the Government to protect care homes this winter.
Labour has warned that previous mistakes in the handling of the pandemic in care homes cannot be repeated and says the ministers must urgently get a grip of the issues to prevent the deadly spread of the virus in care homes.
The letter says Department of Health and Social Care guidance should be updated to emphasise the value of family visits and treat family members as keyworkers to provide ‘priority and focus’.
It is calling for the government to guarantee that weekly, rapid testing of care staff will take place. To ensure that all care workers get the PPE they need and for urgent additional support for families and support for families to be able to safely visit care homes.
The shadow social care minister is also calling for care homes should be supported by the NHS and for additional resources to be allocated to social care throughout the winter and beyond.
In the letter to Matt Hancock, Liz Kendall says: ‘Coronavirus has taken an unimaginable toll on elderly and disabled people, and their families.
‘Reports that infections rates are beginning to rise in care homes once more are a matter of serious concern. With winter and the flu season fast approaching, it is vital that the Government now puts in place a clear winter plan to support social care.
‘The Government must learn the lessons from mistakes that have been made so far, and show users, families and staff that social care will be a top priority in the months ahead.
‘Getting on top of challenges faced by social care ahead of winter is vital – we cannot afford for action to protect care homes and other services to be as slow and chaotic as it was at the start of this pandemic.’
Responding to Labour’s request, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“Details have so far been lacking on the support that will be made available to social care in the run-up to winter and we urge the government to act now to put this right.
‘A well-resourced social care system is vital to enable the NHS to best respond to the challenges of winter which may include a second coronavirus wave.
‘Measures we would like to see include free PPE for all care suppliers, guaranteed testing for both service users and employees, adequate funding to stabilise the sector and a workforce plan.
‘The plan should be introduced along similar lines to the recently published NHS People Plan to support those who work within social care.’
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