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At Last are CQC championing the plight of care homes?

I have long awaited news of action from the CQC bringing to public attention the plight of care homes in England. But at long last they appear to be taking some action to address the concerns of care home providers. It is time that the organisation assumed its rightful independent role and bring to the attention of the public what is happening in care homes.

It would seem that there is evidence that we are not all in this together as so often been the claim. A recent report into the actions of some hospitals and GPS in their relationship with care homes has prompted the CQC to carry out investigations on some serious matters referred to them.

National Health Service

We now learn that the CQC has been told that several hospitals have returned people back to care homes suspecting or even knowing that the person was infected with the Coronavirus. Tragically, this alone could have triggered off an outbreak in a care home resulting in the spreading of infection and serious loss of life.

Kate Terroni Chief Inspector of CQC said “we have heard of a few incidences where this has happened and has resulted in infections spreading to other residents in a care home”.

“In cases where it looks like information wasn’t disclosed by the hospital, we are looking to see if the hospital breached their regulations and whether we can take action”.

This follows on from reports in Manchester last month where whistle-blowers said they knew of patients being discharged to care homes after testing positive without doctors or nurses disclosing their condition.

CQC are investigating several such incidents to see what happened. Kate Terroni said “It’s really important for other residents in a care home, its really important for social care staff that they have the information to keep people safe and knowing whether someone has Covid or not is key information”.

We all know that hospitals have been under pressure to free up beds in anticipation of the surge in the number of Covid cases since the outbreak of the pandemic. Hospitals were given specific guidance from NHS England on March 9th to make available 15,000 beds nationally by discharging anyone deemed medically fit to leave.

Some experts are concerned that the pressure put on hospitals at that time led to people being sent back to care homes without testing them, even if staff suspected they had the symptoms.

General Practitioners

Kate Terroni said “she is very concerned about the huge rise of non-Covid deaths in care homes and residents may not be getting the medical attention they may need”. Normally, GPs would visit care homes where a resident was sick or unwell and carry out some general check-ups at least once or twice a month. Care England has claimed that some family doctors have refused to attend care homes since the beginning of the outbreak.

Latest figures from the National Office of Statistics show that the weekly number of deaths in care homes have risen by nearly four times higher than the five-year average and alarmingly of these only a third are Covid related.

Care Quality Commission

In the past I have been critical of the CQC for not bringing into the public domain the death rates in care homes, long before the government bowed to pressure to release them. The CQC have a duty to safeguard residents as part of their enforcement of regulations. The allegations that have been made are currently under investigation, but if proven could have led to serious loss of life and the spreading of the virus.

Summary

I am loathed to promote doom and gloom where there are many fine examples of community spirit, and of working together. However, we must learn the lessons of the catastrophe that has occurred in care homes which will form part of our inglorious history long after the pandemic has come to an end. Regardless of the pressure put upon it, the NHS and the reasons GPs may have for not visiting care homes, they have a professional duty to safeguard the health and wellbeing of residents and staff who live and work in them. Additionally, they have an ethical duty to work with others within a professional relationship of trust to prevent the spread of infection.

It would seem that either by pressure or duty, the CQC has at last come to the table. It is an organisation that can be a force for good in safeguarding residents and staff by bringing to the notice of the wider public the cause of the catastrophe in care homes and help us to learn the lessons, lest we forget.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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