Hundreds of care homes not accepting new residents due to omicron, adding to hospital pressures

Hundreds of care homes are not allowing new residents due to the spread of omicron and rising staff shortages.

Of the homes operated by MHA, one of the largest not-for-profit care providers in the UK, 70 per cent have now closed their doors to new residents.

A further 40 per cent of homes operated by Four Seasons Healthcare, one of the largest private operators, have recorded two or more coronavirus cases, which means that – in accordance with government guidelines – they should not accept new arrivals.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, described the trend as “very concerning” and said hospital bosses were reporting that delayed discharges were significantly adding to pressure.

“This isn’t good for patients as we know patient outcomes deteriorate if patients are medically fit to discharge but can’t leave hospital,” he told The Guardian.

Mr Hopson also said that this was leading to mounting pressure on hospitals who are unable to discharge patients into the community – including serious cases coming via A&E departments.

The shutdown comes as Covid deaths in care homes jumped more than 50 per cent in the last week of 2021 – but remained far lower than the number of deaths in earlier waves. A total of 65 people died from Covid in England’s care homes in the week to December 31 compared with about 1,850 in the peak of the January 2021 wave.

Current hospitalisations vs previous lockdown levels

Sam Monaghan, the chief executive of MHA, which has closed 62 of its 89 homes to new admissions because of Department of Health and Social Care guidelines around outbreaks, said: “The current rules around outbreaks mean that care homes find themselves closed to new admissions, leaving older people staying in hospital longer than necessary or not getting the care that they need.”

HC-One, the largest private care home provider, said 869 staff – about four per cent of the workforce – were absent with either a positive test or awaiting results, while about 500 residents, or three per cent, had tested positive.

This comes as new figures revealed that around half of care homes in Greater Manchester are unable to accept new residents due to Covid-19 staffing absences.

Care homes ‘knocking back’ onto the NHS

In an online briefing, Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester, told reporters that social care was the public service sector most affected and that care homes are in a “precarious” position regarding staff absences, which is “knocking back” onto the NHS.

He said there are about 650 people in hospital beds who are medically fit to be discharged but there is a shortage of care homes to take them.

He added that around 15 per cent of NHS staff were off work either ill or isolating, nearly 14 per cent of staff at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service were absent, along with 9.5 per cent of Greater Manchester Police employees and 13 per cent of Metrolink tram drivers.

Predicting a “very challenging month ahead”, he added: “We need to have our eyes wide open to what could lie ahead in the rest of January and we need to see the real risks to the continuity of provision in some of our critical public services.”

Vic Rayner, the chief executive of the National Care Forum, added: “This isn’t just difficult for hospitals, but also for unpaid carers who are under enormous pressure and won’t be able to get respite or find places for their loved ones to get the round the clock care they really need.”

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