In England and Wales so far, of over 10,000 Covid-19 deaths occurring outside hospital, 80% took place in care homes. Here in Kent the figure reflects the national picture and I have been in touch with several local care-home owners, managers and staff recently, to understand the challenges they are facing.
Most are telling me their primary concern is the availability of testing. Whilst all care home workers and residents are eligible for Covid-19 tests; many have found it difficult to obtain them in a timely fashion. Whilst the drive-through centre at Ebbsfleet has tests readily available, many care home residents cannot access this facility and staff have difficulty getting the time to travel and leave their pressing duties. Also, tests ordered for delivery to the homes have not been prompt in arriving, further exasperating the situation. A new online portal set up by the Department of Health last week will hopefully now simplify and accelerate home deliveries of testing kits, but this is something I will continue to monitor extremely closely.
For those Care homes I am in touch with in Maidstone & The Weald, there now appears to be adequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). There have been pressures, however, particularly around the supply of face masks, but on most of those occasions Kent County Council (KCC) have been able to cover the demand from their own stocks. (Care homes experiencing PPE shortfalls should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I will be pleased to help).
Infection control is paramount in winning this battle and to that end Kent’s NHS and KCC’s Kent Resilience Forum have partnered up to share their substantial infection control expertise, training care home staff right across the county. Over 100 people have volunteered to take part in this critical activity, which is particularly helpful for those smaller independent homes that do not have dedicated infection control teams.
Let us hope the welcome reduction in overall deaths and infections in the UK will continue across the board, and I congratulate all social care staff for their efforts at that very vulnerable front line.