Thousands of hospital patients have been allowed to return to their care homes without a Covid test despite a direct appeal to the government from key healthcare providers not to allow the practice, the Observer has been said.
As the crisis began to unfold in early March 2020, providers held an emergency meeting with health ministry officials in which they urged the government not to force them to accept untested residents. However, weeks later, official advice remained that testing was not mandatory and thousands of residents would have returned home without a negative Covid result.
The revelation will increase pressure on Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who admitted some care residents returned from the hospital without testing. It comes after Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former senior adviser, last week accused Hancock of misleading the Prime Minister about politics, during his unprecedented testimony in Parliament.
Some 25,000 people were returned to care homes between March 17 and April 15, and social workers and leaders generally believe this allowed the virus to enter homes.
Once inside a care home, the coronavirus often spreads to other residents, with devastating consequences. During the first wave, at least 20,000 nursing home residents died – about a third of the deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Speaking to ObserverSam Monaghan, Managing Director of MHA, the UK’s largest charitable nursing home provider, said: “On March 12 there was a meeting of a number of major nursing home providers with the ministry to talk about the pressure that the NHS might be on, and whether or not we could facilitate and support the NHS in taking patients we could care for. We were very, very clear from the get-go, even before we knew the worst ravages of Covid, that we couldn’t take people away unless they were tested.
“On April 2, the rules on discharge from hospitals from nursing homes clarified that negative tests were not required before discharge. By that time a significant number of people had already caught Covid and we were starting to worry about the asymptomatic presentation, but the hospital discharge rules issued to nursing homes were that we could not expect to suffer a test. “
He added: “No one was talking to us. Some of our managers described it as a feeling of abandonment by everyone around them. If I could I would ask Mr. Hancock what he actually meant, or thought, by a ring of protection [around social care]? It’s a sentence, but it doesn’t mean anything.
In response, the Department of Health and Welfare referred to a press conference in Hancock last week, when it said: “With regard to the testing of people who have left the hospital and entered in nursing homes, we are committed to building testing capacity to make this happen. Of course, then it takes time to build the testing capacity… There will be a time when we come back to all of this in detail, but I remember the events that I committed to providing testing to people who go from there. hospital to nursing homes when we can. I then left and built the test capability for all kinds of reasons, including this one.
the Observer was made aware of the enormous pressure on some houses to take over residents, including learning that a transfer had been sanctioned by a senior executive when no deal had been reached.
In May last year, the owners of a nursing home in the Midlands told the Observer that they had felt “completely abandoned” by their local health department. “The first thing we saw was the withdrawal of the district nursing teams – they wanted us to take dressings and injections. Then the general practitioners stopped coming, and when we got messages, it was just end-of-life care. Other social service officials spoke privately last week of a small number of situations last year where paramedics refused to enter a care home to treat residents.
There are also fears that misleading figures may emerge on the potential number of deaths resulting from the return of untested residents from hospital. Last week, after Cummings told MPs that the ‘circle of protection’ around nursing homes was a lie, Public Health England (PHE) released a written report last October that only reported 1.6 % of outbreaks in nursing homes – 806 cases between January and October last year – were from hospitalized patients who were discharged from hospital.
Vic Rayner, chief executive of the National Care Forum, said the findings of the PHE report appeared “highly improbable.” She said the report only considered those who had tested positive, and it barely recognized that the vast majority of the 25,000 people who were rushed out of hospital in March 2020 had not been tested at all for. Covid. The report – written last October but released only the day after Cummings testified – made no attempt to calculate how many untested patients could have spread Covid in nursing homes.
Liz Kendall, shadow minister of social affairs, said: “Instead of using partial data to try to rewrite history and avoid blame for the tragedy in our care homes, ministers should be honest with them. people about what happened, learn from what went wrong, and put in place the long-term social service reforms that families desperately need to ensure these terrible mistakes do not happen again more. “
Geoffrey Cox, managing director of nursing home provider Southern Healthcare, told the BBC Today program yesterday that some of what Cummings said “ringed really true”.
Professor Jackie Cassell, assistant dean of Brighton and Sussex medical schools and a member of the government working group on social care Covid, said the figure of 1.6% was “very plausible”. “What’s really striking about the nursing home environment is that you get very few individual cases and some of them were actually people who had come back from the hospital,” she said. declared. “But you get epidemics because it’s such a dangerous environment in terms of contact patterns and fragility. “