Lack of Testing For Those With No Symptoms Will Cost Lives, Says Care Homes Chief
by Hugh Coakley
The lack of Covid-19 testing for those without symptoms will cost lives says David Holmes, chair of the Surrey Care Association (SCA). But he added: “The social care system in Surrey is doing outstanding work.”
The Guildford area has 737 beds in 23 care homes a total higher than the Royal Surrey’s 720 beds. Seventeen of the homes are rated “Good” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), one is “Outstanding” and five are “Requiring improvement”.
Mr Homes told The Guildford Dragon NEWS that collating the numbers of coronavirus deaths in the homes was difficult, confirming a BBC report. “I’m not sure if there are any statistics,” he said. “But anecdotally, my guess is that the coronavirus figures for Surrey will look favourable against other areas and that is down to the quality of care here.”
He said the lack of reliable statistics was partly caused by variation in the way doctors filled in the death certificate and in the timing of recording deaths.
“It would be good to have the statistics,” Mr Holmes added. “But that would have to be done through the CQC. [For me,] each day is full on sourcing PPE, managing the organisation and saving lives.”
He called the three- to four-day delay in Covid-19 test results “disappointing” and testing is still being restricted to only those with symptoms.
“If one member of staff has symptoms and they have been in contact with all the other staff members, you can’t send everyone home. You need to test everyone but it isn’t allowed, even though there is capacity at the Chessington and Gatwick testing stations.
“We are asking and being refused and it will be costing lives.”
And PPE is still a daily challenge. “I know of services which are down to their last knockings on masks and gowns,” he said.
“I have a strong view that the government was slow off the blocks. Clearly, they had to prioritise the NHS but they were too late recognising the needs of care homes. The penny finally dropped about a week ago.
“But this is not new; social care has been neglected for over 10 years. 2007 was the year that councils stopped giving inflation uplifts to care home payments and that has forced wages down. It is shocking and done quite explicitly by the government.
“Our society has underfunded social care. We expect people on a minimum wage to do a highly skilled and outstanding job.”
David thinks that the social care system will be the last to come out of lockdown. “We are just starting to discuss the future and it is raising flags,” he said.
“As soon as the lockdown is released, our staff are at the risk of increased contact and this will increase the risk to our residents.”
He is looking for a fundamental change but did not appear optimistic. “The change I would like to see is the creation of a national care service. NHS is national and social care is local. It just doesn’t work.
“The funding differs from county to county and Surrey doesn’t compare well. They are one of the most challenging to deal with, focusing on savings as opposed to the quality of the offering.”
Mr Holmes said he had to get back to work and added: “Social care does outstanding work in Surrey, supporting people incredibly well. I just hope this crisis will create a real change in the way we treat our workers.”