It is often said that a measure of a caring society is how it looks after its most vulnerable and those in need. The scandal that is unfolding within the care homes in England does not show us all in our finest hour. A report from the Chief medical officer reveals that more than one hundred homes have reported an outbreak of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. Nationally, more than 13% of care homes have now been affected by the deadly virus equating with 2,200 care homes.
To compound this catastrophe, we are not given accurate figures on the number of deaths that have occurred in homes as a result of the virus. Unlike Germany and France, the government here have decided not to release the day to figures on the number of deaths in care homes.
A recent study suggests that more than half the UK's deaths from COVID-19 may have taken place in care homes. A whistleblower has said that some GPs are not recording the coronavirus as the cause of death of residents in care homes, which in itself is misleading the figures.
Right to life
It has been claimed that elderly people with the virus could be denied critical care under a NHS scoring system designed to free up intensive care unit beds.
I am minded of Article 2 of the Human Rights Act designed to protect a person’s right to life. This means that nobody, including the Government, can try to end a person’s life.
Some politicians are claiming that Service Users in care homes are being abandoned.
Why have care homes received so little support?
The strategy of the government and their expert health advisers all along has been to support the NHS at the cost of social care. I am not saying that the NHS should not have been given priority in the supply of PPE and testing what I am saying is staff in care homes and those providing home care should have been included in the strategy from the very beginning. The supply of PPE should have been allocated where it is most needed. The strategy seems to have been to meet the needs of the NHS and then those of social care.
Tension between the NHS and Care Homes
The drive to free up beds from NHS hospitals to care homes is creating tension. Care home providers who wish to ensure that Service Users admitted to hospital with symptoms of the corona virus are tested before being discharged back into the home. Some providers are refusing the take the person back into the home because evidence of the results of the test cannot be given.
In my own experience one of our customers was reported to the local safeguarding committee for not agreeing to re-admit a Service User because there was no evidence of a test.
Personal Protective Equipment
There is no doubt that despite the best efforts of government there is a shortage of PPE. In time it may well be seen as a serious contributory factor in our ability to restrict the spread of the virus. Little wonder that at one time 25% of medical staff were absent from work because they did not feel safe without the proper PPE.
Nicola Roberts a manager of a care home in Sheffield says the “absence rate of staff in care homes has been phenomenal”. She said “Staff are too terrified to come to work. You can’t blame them. We are asking them to put themselves and their families at risk with only limited PPE available”.
We are now three weeks into the lockdown and testing for the corona virus which has now achieved 20000 tests per day. It is unbelievable that only last week Mat Hancock Health Minister Said “We are now able to open up testing in care homes”. With this level of delay no wonder management and staff in care homes and homecare are having extreme difficulty in coping with the pressures.
This country has faced serious challenges resulting from the corona virus. By and large people have pulled together Unfortunately, tensions have arisen between health and social care as pressures have grown. The strategy of the government in its support of care homes and social care has been found wanting. It is alarming that in a caring society we are considering the denial of critical care for the elderly. In essence, we are placing a value on one life at the expense of another. Surely, we all have a right to life regardless of age or health. We should not forget the meaning of the Human Rights Act in these most difficult of times, that is, the protection of human life.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy