The true scale of the coronavirus crisis ‘burning through’ care homes may never be known, according to one of the industry’s most senior figures.
Professor Martin Green, the head of Care England, condemned the Government’s pandemic strategy and said the sector could still be months from a peak in cases.
In a scathing attack, he said: ‘There is no form of tracking mechanism and unless we have testing, it will not be clear who has died of Covid-19 and who hasn’t.’
Professor Martin Green says the full impact of COVID-19 on care homes may never be known
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick yesterday insisted that care homes were a ‘particular focus’, with half of deaths across Europe now in such locations.
And with care home deaths expected to soon exceed those in hospitals, one charity boss likened the virus battle to a war zone and raged: ‘It’s lions led by donkeys.’
As exhausted care staff are forced to beg for funding, personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing, The Mail on Sunday can reveal:
- Some doctors are refusing to enter care homes to certify deaths
- There are persistent shortages of PPE and testing
- Hundreds of homes face financial crisis, yet profiteers are hiking PPE prices by up to 500 per cent
- The Government’s additional £1.6 billion to councils for social care is not reaching the front line
Professor Green, whose organisation represents hundreds of independent care services providers, warned ominously that the peak in the community could be weeks or even months away.
While many NHS staff are going into care homes to treat patients, (above), some doctors are refusing to go into care homes and certify coronavirus deaths
‘We’re a long way behind because despite what the Health Secretary says about us being regarded as a priority, clearly we weren’t,’ he said.
‘At the start of this pandemic, the only narrative was “protect the NHS” and what that manifested into was we had PPE supplies disrupted – we had primary care completely withdrawing from care homes.’
He added that a genuine desire by Ministers to help had been stymied by numerous agencies and quangos ‘incapable of making quick decisions’. Local councils, which fund adult social care, have received an extra £1.6 billion, taking the total to £3.2 billion.
But some local authorities are only willing to spend it on subsidised poorer residents rather than the privately funded.
The head of Care England criticised the government’s tracking mechanism of the virus
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Saturday that care homes are a ‘particular’ focus for the government
‘For years, local authorities have been leeching off the private payers, who are the people who pay the real cost of care,’ said Prof Green. ‘When the moment of crisis comes they abandon them and say, “It’s nothing to do with us.”’
Dr Jennifer Dixon, of the Health Foundation charity, said deaths in care homes are rising at a higher rate than hospitals and ‘if this trend continues, it’s possible that number of deaths per week in care homes could overtake hospitals’.
Eileen Chubb, founder of whistleblowing charity Compassion in Care, described how staff were facing PPE shortages. ‘It’s like working in a war zone but having the most awful general on the planet in charge,’ she said. ‘It’s lions led by donkeys.’ Mike Smith, director of Trinity Homecare in Surrey, said trying to get urgent protective gear was ‘like a treasure hunt where you get to the end and there’s no treasure’.
Mike Padgham, of the Independent Care Group (ICG), which represents 150 providers across North Yorkshire, said the price of face masks had soared from 17.5p each to £1. He said: ‘I’m fighting a war on two fronts. There’s the Covid war and then later there will be the battle for financial survival.’
A third of British care homes have been hit by coronavirus with over 4,000 deaths recorded, leaving loved ones concerned about their elderly family members living
About 45 per cent of the homes in the ICG say they are in danger of going bust. Prof Green said this was representative of the national figure, meaning about 60,000 vulnerable residents at 1,500 homes are in jeopardy.
A third of Britain’s care homes have now been hit by Covid-19. Officially 4,343 residents have died, but Person Centred Software, which supplies clinical systems, estimates the real number is more than 17,500.
Steve Gibson, of Stainton Lodge Care Centre in Middlesbrough, has seen 17 residents die, but only two were tested for coronavirus. He said: ‘Some GPs put pneumonia on the death certificates, some GPs are putting Covid-like symptoms.’
Vivek Kotecha, of the Centre for Health and Public Interest, said: ‘It will keep burning though care homes. The only way to reverse it would be to test and isolate rapidly but none of that is in place.’
The Department of Health said last night it was ‘working night and day to deliver PPE’ and testing was being ramped up.