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11 Nov 2020

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A breach in the defences?

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

New figures from other European countries suggest that about half of Covid-19 deaths have occurred in care homes, and that the UK has not been including deaths in care homes when compiling its own statistics.

There could be a number of reasons for this, data-lag being one of them; NHS figures may be more immediately available than those from care homes but one would have thought they’d be starting to make their presence felt by now, and perhaps they are.

Another reason is that many care home residents are nearing the end of life in any case and may have died untested. Given the demand for and limited supply of testing kit it may seem reasonable to some that frail elderly people with multiple co-morbidities should find themselves at the end of the queue.

But in this quite desperate time, invoking the quite desperate remedy of nationwide ‘lock-down’, one would think that accurate data was of paramount importance, both in terms of decision-making and of public trust; if there is uncertainty, let it at least be acknowledged.

And while resources may be limited, resulting in working age adults being afforded more protection as a pragmatic priority, and while it may be valid to leave care home residents out of the equation in terms of ‘flattening the curve’, what about the people who are looking after them? Of all occupational groups, care workers are surely most at risk, ill-equipped as they are, their numbers shrinking as more self-isolate to protect both residents and their own families. Those who can work on with quiet heroism have to work harder, for longer, all the while having to cope with innumerable ethical dilemmas with only the vaguest of unapplyable guidance from those at the top of the chain.

We are asking so much of our social care workforce and they are receiving relatively little support. We shouldn’t be surprised if social care turns out to be our Achilles heel..

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

2 Replies to “A breach in the defences?”

  1. This is a thoughtful, and well-timed opinion-piece.

    In many ways, care home workers have a harder time than hospital staff. For one thing, the Chancellor has pledged to provide however much of taxpayer’s money it takes to protect the NHS – the same generosity is not being afforded to those who work in, or own care homes. For another, hospital patients generally know why they are there; why they need to stay in bed and why they need to follow the instructions of their doctors and nurses. Dementia sufferers, many having little capacity, are confused by a change in routine. They often can’t be persuaded to wear face masks; stay in their rooms or otherwise observe social distancing recommendations. All this and their carers don’t have the same level of Personal Protection Equipment as is provided to NHS workers.

    Care home workers really are the unsung heroes of this dreadful virus. They should not be left to be the Cinderellas in the war against coronavirus.

  2. The lack of accurate data from care homes is a real issue. What are the numbers in reality? 50% of Covid related deaths may be in care homes across Europe but the study also reveals that this represents 2% to 3% of the total number of residents. What is the usual percentage of deaths in care homes against the general population or total number of beds? Without a shadow of doubt, the nurses and carers are the unsung heroes doing their very best in very difficult circumstances. What we don’t need is a media fixed on flawed data and sensationalism making a fearful situation much more so.

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