50% of care homes had no Covid deaths, says CQC, as inspectors slam poor infection control.
Updated: Jan 20, 2021
With Covid cases increasing again in care homes, campaigners are demanding the government organise weekly testing of care staff to prevent Covid spread. It’s a good idea. Anything that can stop further infections, has got to be good.
But a Freedom of Information Act response last week from the Care Quality Commission, revealed that, to 2 January 2021, a majority of care homes England have not had any Covid deaths and four in ten had not had a virus outbreaks.
Stringent anti-Covid requirements were brought in months ago, in response to the pandemic. And, back in the Spring, it was argued that hospital discharges of infected patients and the unexpected virus were to blame for surging cases in homes and thousands of deaths. But why, 10 months on, are cases and deaths in care homes rising rapidly again? And will testing prevent this, when anti-infection regulations and guidelines apparently cannot?
Testing should help prevent the virus being brought in. But anti-infection rules and practices should help prevent spread...shouldn't they? Official reports reveal, however, that some homes are still not doing what they should in terms of infection control.
Last Friday, for instance, a care home report was published, stating: 'People continued to be at risk of infection due to infection prevention and control practices not always being adequate...
'Best practice guidelines were not always being followed to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19. For example, personal protective equipment (PPE) was not always worn correctly and people newly admitted to the home were not being isolated in line with recommendations. We also observed staff interacting with people without appropriate PPE.'
Meanwhile, earlier today [20 Jan] a report was issued: 'We were not assured staff were using Personal Protective Equipment [PPE] effectively and safely. Though there was no outbreak of COVID 19 at the service and all staff were observed to wear a face mask, where staff had direct contact with people using the service, staff were not wearing gloves or sanitising their hands between interactions. Despite hand sanitising wipes being located on dining tables, people were not offered the opportunity to wash their hands or have their hands sanitised prior to the lunchtime meal. This placed people at increased risk of contracting COVID 19 or other infections.'
We may all be virus experts now. But you don’t have to be an epidemiologist to recognise that this puts residents in danger of contracting Covid.
But there is pressure from critics of the Government, and the care regulator, not to admit that poor standards may play a role in the spread of Covid in homes.
It is claimed only a tiny minority of homes are not doing the right thing: that most infections result from a lack of testing, which is the government’s fault.
But, since so many homes have actually avoided any deaths and many have even avoided outbreaks, it might be worth checking what's going on.
Blaming everything on the government ignores the hundreds of 'Inadequate' care homes and 3,000 which 'Require Improvement', which are officially 'unsafe'. And many homes are still ignoring anti-Covid measures.
Not all Covid-free homes are officially 'good' and good homes have seen outbreaks of Covid. But how is it that four in 10 care homes have managed to avoid Covid, most of which are good? Are they doing something right or is it pure chance or is it a combination of the two?
If you argue testing alone can help, then it must be pure chance that most care homes did not see any deaths: because Covid is unstoppable. But is that right?
The CQC's figures about the impact of the pandemic on the care sector are intriguing. To date, the regulator has refused to share details of homes which have been affected by Covid, so OLM changed tack and asked which had not had outbreaks.
The regulator was happy to oblige, boasting that some 40% of care homes for older people, had not had a Covid outbreak. Strangely, the CQC said a further 395 unrated homes had also seen no outbreaks. Even discounting these, the figures showed a disproportionate number of Covid-free homes, some 86%, were either Good or Outstanding.
But the CQC also revealed there had been no Covid deaths in 7,931 (53%) of current 'rated' homes – again, more than 85% of these are Good or Outstanding homes.
The number of homes which have not seen any deaths rises to 8,422 homes, if you include another 491 which have no rating, according to the CQC.
Were residents and staff kept safe because, once risks were known, these homes assiduously followed the regulations? And maybe those which saw infections, despite following the guidelines, were the unlucky ones?
All of these figures come from the CQC’s FOI response…It said there are currently, 14,871 rated care and nursing homes in England, of which 658 (4.4%) are Outstanding, 11,673 (78%) are Good, 2346 (16%) Require Improvement and 194 (1.3%) are Inadequate.