Nursing homes ‘days from crisis’ due to coronavirus

Care workers are not being tested and lack personal protective equipment.

Care workers are not being tested and lack personal protective equipment. - Credit: Archant

Nursing homes in Weston are days away from a crisis as carers are not being tested for coronavirus and lack protective equipment, according to sector experts.

The virus is continuing to take a grip across the country with 40 confirmed cases in North Somerset and 1,789 deaths in the UK so far.

The battle is being fought by NHS staff in hospitals across the country, but people from many other sectors are also risking their lives to help others.

Care workers are classed as front-line staff but testing kits have only been rolled out to NHS staff so far.

More: Rise in coronavirus cases as UK sees biggest increase in deaths.

There is also a huge shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), meaning many carers are working without it.

Gordon Butcher, regional chairman of the Registered Nursing Home Association, says it is ‘outrageous and dangerous’ nursing home staff are not being tested for Covid-19.

Mr Butcher said: “As of last weekend, nursing staff within Weston General Hospital are being tested for Covid-19.

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“There is no provision for nursing home staff to have the same testing, even although the Government has stated we are to be regarded as front-line staff.

“This is outrageous and dangerous. If nursing homes suddenly see large numbers of staff going into self-isolation on the assumption they have been working with staff that might or might not have the virus, then the only place to relocate the residents is to Weston General Hospital.

“In reality, you could be looking at thousands of residents, many end-of-life, having to be moved.

“This is a real threat that I can see appearing any day now.“

Mr Butcher said nursing homes could be at ‘critical staffing levels within days’ if staff begin self-isolating .

He said: “You could, within one week, have up to 10 care staff and several nurses in self-isolation for 14 days.

“If we had access to testing, the results would be back in days.

“Nursing homes have not got the vast staffing pool to call on like hospitals. The whole sector could find itself in a crisis literally within days.

“We could then see large numbers of residents being admitted into hospital at the very time they need beds.

“In addition, you would be moving the elderly, frail, sick and end-of-life residents from a safe environment of a nursing home with individual bedroom, into ward hospitals, where they are treating patients with Covid-19. Someone needs to join the dots and fast.”

More: Urgent appeal for masks and gloves to protect care workers from coronavirus.

Earlier this week, North Somerset Council appealed for donations of PPE and hand sanitiser to give out to care workers due to a desperate shortage of supplies.

Mr Butcher said: “This is the biggest threat to nursing homes nationally in the history of the sector.

“You often hear the word ‘crisis’ mentioned towards the care sector, but in this case, it is a real crisis.

“People working in the sector are scared, as we are not in control and the ramification effects even the best of the nursing homes.

“When you read reports of care homes in the rest of Europe, you cannot help but fear that this is what is in store for us and it’s literally just around the corner.”