Last week UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, pledged a £600m infection control package for care homes.
The ringfenced infection control package, introduced to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in care homes, will be given to local authorities to ensure care homes can continue to halt the spread by helping them cover the costs of implementing measures to reduce transmission.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “This £600m Infection Control Fund will help as we continue to reduce infections in care homes and save lives. From the very start of this outbreak, we have been working to protect our brilliant social care workforce and the most vulnerable in our society.
“Our package sets out clearly the extra steps local councils and care homes should be taking as we stamp out the spread of this virus.”
The funding will be distributed to councils based on the number of care home beds in their area.
Taking care of staff and residents
In order to prevent the spread of infection, care homes are being asked to restrict permanent and agency staff to working in just one care home, meaning the funding could be used to meet the additional costs of this restriction and pay the wages of those self-isolating.
The package for infection control in care homes was announced last week during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, and further measures have been announced today.
All local authorities must now conduct a daily review of care homes in their area to ensure they have support with staffing and accessing PPE. All care homes will have a named clinical contact in the NHS to provide clinical advice through weekly check-ins, and a wellbeing package for social care staff is being rolled out.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately, said: “Our care homes, and those working tirelessly to look after our loved ones are at the heart of our fight against this invisible enemy, which is why we’re doing everything we can to make sure the sector has all the support it needs to stop the spread and save lives.
“Our support package introduces stronger measures on infection control and steps up clinical support to make sure there is a clinical lead assigned to every care home right across the country to offer advice and quicker support. This is an important set of measures to support care homes and their staff – to continue to do wonderful work caring for people, even at this most difficult of times.”
All symptomatic and asymptomatic care home staff and residents in England are already eligible for testing, and testing is prioritised for care homes that look after the over 65s. Now, a new digital portal will enable care homes to register for the delivery and collection of test kits directly.
Working with charities
In conjunction with NHS England the Samaritans have extended the use of their helpline to all social care workers. Hospice UK will also be extending their bereavement and trauma support hotline to people working in social care, with specialist counsellors available to support staff who have experienced trauma, stress, or anxiety through their work.
Boosting the social care workforce
Today’s announcement also aims to further boost the social care workforce and work has begun to attract thousands more people into social care over the next three months through the new national social care recruitment campaign.
Former nurses who are returning to work in the crisis will be deployed to care homes through the Bringing Back Staff programme.
Infection control nurses will begin training staff for infection control in care homes, including advice about the recommended approach to infection prevention control, PPE usage and testing advice. This programme commenced at the beginning of May with the offer available to every area in England.
Paul Johnstone, Deputy SRO for PHE COVID-19 Response at Public Health England (PHE), said: “We are delighted that the social care sector will get even more support in the form of the Social Care Fund, based on PHE research and emerging evidence from the World Health Organization. We are confident that these interventions will help to further reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and keep our care home residents and workers safe.
“The excellent work carried out by Directors of Public Health and PHE’s Health Protection Teams has already made a huge difference to the local response to COVID-19. We will continue working with NHS England and DHSC to provide advice and support to the sector.”