Care home residents with covid risk being “left in limbo” in hospital, as a Telegraph investigation reveals a third of councils do not have isolation accommodation.
Government officials have instructed councils to find care facilities where patients who have the virus and who are ready to be discharged from hospital can be housed while they are still in the 14 day isolation period before being returned to their care homes.
This is an attempt to avoid a repeat of the first wave of the virus when more than 20,000 care home residents died and the government was widely criticised for telling hospitals to discharge patients to care homes without requiring a test first.
Hospitals have also been under pressure to free up beds as quickly as possible as the number of covid cases have risen across the country.
But Freedom of Information responses from councils have revealed that 11 of the 33 councils who responded are yet to find any suitable accommodation, one month after the government directive which called on councils to identify the facilities in time for winter.
This falls far short of the government’s target of at least one “designated accommodation” for every local authority “as soon as possible ahead of winter”.
Under the current guidance patients should be tested for the virus before being discharged and be isolated in the care home for 14 days if they have tested positive.
What now for care homes abandoned to Covid?
The Telegraph understands that government officials are concerned that not enough care providers are volunteering to house patients with covid in isolation accommodation.
Care bosses said they are reluctant to set up dedicated isolation accommodation for large numbers of covid positive patients because their insurers are refusing to cover them for Covid-19 cases.
The care sector has lobbied ministers throughout the pandemic to provide the same protection the NHS has when faced with clinical negligence claims, but they say their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England, said: “Providers are very concerned that issues around insurance have not been resolved. National Government, local government and the CQC need to ensure that this issue is raised, dealt with and addressed immediately. We have been raising these issues since its inception and it needs sorting out now”.
The Care Quality Commission has been tasked with inspecting all the facilities that volunteer to take covid patients to ensure strict infection controls are in place, with the aim of checking 500 sites by the end of November. But just 71 sites had been approved for use by last week.
Care bosses said in some parts of the country where there is no isolation accommodation hospital beds are starting to fill up with patients who are ready for discharge but are still in their 14 day isolation period.
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group which represents care providers across north Yorkshire, said: “In our neck of the woods, the hospital is full, they want to discharge people immediately because the system’s creaking but bureaucracy has got in the way.
“It’s beginning to happen that people are just stuck in hospital. Care home residents are left in limbo. It’s like delayed transfers of care before the pandemic – people are waiting in hospital in a bed which costs a lot of money, to get social care because social care had run out of money but then people who wanted to come in the other side couldn’t get in.
“Now you’ve got people with coronavirus in the early stages trying to come into hospital and nowhere to put them because people at the other end can’t be discharged so it’s very disorganised.”
Paul Edwards, Director of Clinical Services at Dementia UK, said: "Many care homes do not have the facilities in place to provide isolation zones for Covid-19 positive residents, let alone adequate staffing for two distinct areas. Testing for staff is still variable and has not been prioritised for visitors. There is still so much to be done."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our priority is the prevention of infection in care homes and ensuring everyone receives the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
“We are working with the Care Quality Commission and the NHS to ensure everyone discharged to a care home has an up-to-date COVID-19 test result and anyone testing positive is discharged to a setting that is assured to be able to provide safe care.
“Our ambition is for every local authority to have access to at least one CQC designated accommodation as soon as possible ahead of winter and we are working closely with the sector as we put these arrangements in place.”