In May, deaths in care homes increased so much that they surpassed those in hospitals. Questions are therefore being asked about whether sufficient protection was provided for residents and workers in care homes throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Analysis by Sky News estimates that one in 10 of the entire care home population died during the coronavirus pandemic. Even if not all of these can be attributed to coronavirus, the number of deaths in care homes has nearly doubled throughout the pandemic. We look at why this increase in deaths might have occurred.
Focus on Protecting NHS Over Care Homes
In the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, the focus was on protecting the NHS hospitals. The UK was facing the unknown with concerns about hospitals breaching capacity. Emergency hospitals were therefore erected and volunteers were drafted in. Meaning that a lot of resources were directed to hospitals, whilst many patients were redirected elsewhere.
In this desperate attempt to protect the hospitals, care home residents were either encouraged to stay or discharged from hospital into care homes. Some even took on more residents to relieve pressure elsewhere in the healthcare system.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
In line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Public Health England (PHE) guidelines, PPE was procured for care providers. However, due to limited resources, it was prioritised for frontline workers who were treating those suspected to have coronavirus. Care home workers were therefore not deemed as the top priority for the necessary protective equipment. This meant that workers were either left without any, or were forced to purchase their own.
Testing in Care Homes
Coronavirus testing was initially limited and staff at care homes weren’t eligible for testing until late April. This is likely to have resulted in infected staff working with vulnerable residents.
Care home residents often have underlying issues, which means coronavirus symptoms were not always clearly presented. Without widespread testing, carers couldn’t be certain what they were treating and what steps to take to isolate residents.
Limiting the Spread
The government have recommended that care workers should limit their activity to one care home. But this isn’t always feasible, as many workers are on zero hour contracts and have to take multiple contracts to make a living. Care workers can see up to 20 clients a day. This level of interaction without PPE may have contributed to cross contamination of coronavirus across care homes.
Whilst considering these shortfalls, it should be remembered that most care homes commercial businesses. In the UK, 86% of nursing homes are run for-profit, which is more than in the American market. Considering this and that the average cost of a care home can be nearly £1,000 per week, it is right to ask questions. Can these organisations guarantee that the protection of the residents and workers of care homes were prioritised over profits?
How Pryers Can Help You
If you are concerned that a care home has not properly protected you or your loved ones from coronavirus, speak to our care home negligence experts. Alternatively, if you work in a care home and feel like you have not been protected, you may be able to make a claim against your employers.