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Regulator arranges Covid-19 testing for care staff

April 21, 2020

On behalf of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been contacting adult social care providers to book appointments for their staff to be tested for COVID-19. CQC says that since 10 April, 24,590 locations have been contacted and 12,422 appointments have been booked for staff.

Working with Public Health England (PHE) alongside local decision makers, including the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), CQC’s national infrastructure is being used to book appointments at a national testing centre for any staff who are self-isolating with symptoms of Covid-19.

It is hoped this will give care staff more peace of mind about their own safety and that of their families and the people they care for – and that those who test negative can return to work and help relieve the pressures services are facing. As some adult social care staff cannot visit a drive-through testing centre as they do not have access to a car, a scheme is being piloted this week for staff to order home testing kits.

Other measures CQC says it has taken to support adult social care include designing and launching a regular data collection on Covid-19 related pressures – such as shortages of PPE – from services who provide care for people in their own homes. This information, says the regulator, will be combined with information already gathered from residential and nursing homes to give a much more complete picture of how Covid-19 is affecting people who use adult social care services and those who care for them. This information will be shared across organisation who can help mobilise support as well as CQC’s own inspection teams.

In response to concerns raised by providers about the possibility that advance care plans, with or without Do Not Attempt to Resuscitate (DNAR) form completion, could be applied broadly to groups of people during the COVID-19 pandemic, CQC has issued a joint statement with the British Medical Association (BMA), Care Provider Alliance (CPA) and Royal College of General Practice (RCGP) to make it clear that this practice is unacceptable, and that these decisions must continue to be made on an individual basis according to need.

CQC is also working with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to explore how to provide a more detailed and timely picture of the impact of Covid-19 on adult social care, using the data on deaths of people with suspected and confirmed Covid-19 that they collect from providers. This will also give a regional view of which areas are being most impacted and may need additional support as a result. This data will be used to support weekly ONS reporting on deaths from 28 April.

CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm said the regulator had taken “some really practical steps to support adult social care during a time of unimaginable pressure”.

“We’ll continue to develop the package of support we’re offering across all sectors to help providers prioritise the safety of people using services and of staff delivering care,” Mr Trenholm said.

“It is especially important – at a time when staff may be looking after more patients than usual, working outside their normal competencies or in new environments – to highlight the value of safety culture. Ensuring an open and transparent culture where people can speak up when they have concerns about safety is crucial.

“Staff must feel confident that they will be listened to – without any fear of blame or reprisal – when raising concerns and reporting incidents. In these exceptionally challenging times, identifying and reporting risk so that action can be taken to ensure that safe care is maintained will be more important than ever. CQC will be listening, and we want to help you to keep people safe.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, CQC’ says its immediate focus is on supporting providers to keep people safe during a period of unprecedented pressure. CQC continues to collect insight and intelligence about the quality of care from its existing data sources including providers, healthcare staff, stakeholders, and the public, and is working closely with NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure additional support is in place where needed. The Commission is also developing an Emergency Support Framework that uses data and information across all sectors to help inspectors to target support to providers and ensure people get safe care.

CQC says it will be listening to what people are saying about services during this time to help detect any changes in care. Although routine inspections have been suspended during the pandemic and there is recognition that care is being delivered differently and staff are working under pressure. If evidence suggests that people are at risk of harm, CQC says inspectors will take action to ensure that people are being kept safe.

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