Preventing Covid in virus-free Lancashire care homes is 'a priority'

Extra government cash intended to help stem the spread of coronavirus in care homes will be used in Lancashire to fund specialist plans in the event of an outbreak in any individual facility.

Extra government cash intended to help stem the spread of coronavirus in care homes will be used in Lancashire to fund specialist plans in the event of an outbreak in any individual facility.

Care home operators in the county council area are also being given targeted infection control advice to prevent the disease getting through the doors in the first place.

It comes as the authority’s director of public health said that the care sector has “not been at the forefront” of nationwide efforts to tackle the virus – but stressed that it was a top priority locally.

Around one in three Lancashire care homes have experienced a coronavirus outbreak

County Hall has been handed £16.1m from a £600m pot announced by ministers last week to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 in care settings. The standalone councils in Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen will get £2.1m and £1.3m respectively.

Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver said any additional financial assistance was welcome.

“It is vital that we do all we can to support the care sector who are under immense and ongoing pressure.

“This cash will help to fund an outbreak management plan for Lancashire, which we are developing to support the government’s test and trace programme being rolled out this week.

“The funding will also help with some additional infection prevention and control measures. Our priority must be to avoid outbreaks in homes where there aren’t any and support recovery and this fund will help us to do that,” County Cllr Driver added.

The latest figures show that just under one in three of the 529 care homes across the whole of Lancashire have reported at least one case of coronavirus within their walls.

Lancashire County Council’s director of public health said that preventative measures have been reviewed just this week.

“We are providing localised, care setting-specific infection prevention controls – and now, where [establishments] can’t [carry out] tests themselves, we have brought people in to go and do the swabbing,” explained Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi.

“Care homes are at the top of my list in terms of being a hotspot for Covid-19 – and we are doing everything we can to support the care sector and its residents.

“The care sector, in general, has not been at the forefront of government policy since this all started – it was mainly the NHS and I suggest that is still is the case if you look at the five tests [for lifting lockdown restrictions, two of which focus specifically on the ability of the health service to cope].

The government has said that extra money must be used for measures including limiting the movement of permanent and agency staff between different homes and to provide care workers with NHS training in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The three top-tier authorities in Lancashire have spent over £16m on sourcing PPE for the wider social care sector since the outbreak began.

Local authorities have also been told to make daily contact with all care homes in their areas – something which Lancashire already does.

Lancashire County Council also announced last month that it would cover any Covid-related “crisis costs” which left care providers facing financial distress.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said of the additional funding: "This £600 million 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."

Care minister Helen Whately added: “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.”