The National Care Forum (NCF) has stated that more resource, in terms of both staff time and money, is needed to implement the testing regime in the COVID-19 Winter Plan.
The plan expands the testing available to care homes, seeing the current weekly testing for staff increase to twice weekly by the end of December, and the monthly testing of all residents increased to weekly testing in December. NCF says that while this is an extremely welcome move, it must be supported by more resource.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director at the National Care Forum said, 'The truly wonderful news about the vaccine and the seemingly extraordinary news about the new elasticity and capacity of the testing regime are overshadowed by the giant elephant in the room of cost and resource.
'It is a real cause for concern that the government feels able to announce a quadrupling of the testing regime within individual care homes without even considering any extra resource to do this. Either they have so little knowledge of what happens in a care home that they assume this can happen without additional resource, or conversely so little respect for what people are doing and the care that others need that they think that this can happen without impact on the care provided.'
The National Care Forum estimates that an 'average' 50-bed care home with 100 staff will, in November, have been conducting 450 tests per month. With the additional, and welcome, increase in testing, this figure will look more like 1,800 tests for an 'average' sized home.
Vic continues, 'With no additional resource for December onwards, the ‘average 50 bed care home’ will need to administer an additional 1,350 tests per month minimum. Even on extremely conservative estimates about the length of time to manage each test, for example an average 20 minutes, this still adds an additional 450 hours to the testing regime in a single home, or an average of 9 hours' additional time on testing per bed of a care home per month.
'...With this in mind, it is not just insulting, but dangerous for government to suggest this can be delivered without extra resources and staff. We are already seeing members raising huge concerns and anxieties about how they are expected to deliver this.'
The COVID-19 Winter Plan also states that legislation on movement of staff will be introduced by the end of the year, meaning care homes must legally restrict all but essential movement of staff between settings in order to reduce transmission.
Vic also notes this issue, stating, 'Late on the 13th November the Government put out a short notice 10-day consultation on the introduction of legislation around restriction of staff movement in care homes. I have no doubt there will have been hundreds of responses on this hugely contentious issue, equating to thousands of hours of social care time. The consultation closed at 12pm on the 23rd November, and by 3pm that same day, the COVID-19 Winter Plan was produced, enshrining the inception of the same said legislation that the introduction of had been out to consultation some three hours earlier, by the end of the year. Now that feels like the action of a government that not only doesn’t ‘know social care’ but also does not value or respect it’s work or it’s time. Warm words yet again provide cold comfort for social care in the latest Winter Plan.'