Care home ‘blame game’ must stop – hospital trusts

Hospital leaders have insisted the “blame game must stop” amid claims that Covid-19 positive patients were discharged into care homes.

NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said support given to the sector by hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic has “not been fully acknowledged”.

Earlier on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said that no patients were “discharged into a care home this year without the express authorisation of a clinician” following criticism of the Government’s handling of the care sector.

His comments came after Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, told MPs that infected patients were discharged from hospitals into homes while NHS medical support was withdrawn.

In a statement, NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said the “vast majority” of those discharged from hospital did not go into care homes at the start of the outbreak.

“There is a growing and damaging belief that hospitals systematically and knowingly discharged Covid-19 patients to the home care sector,” she said.

“Trusts have been working closely with local authorities and care homes to help them deal with the pressures posed by the virus.

“It is also true to say that in the early weeks of the pandemic, the vast majority of patients discharged from hospitals did not go to care homes.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

“They were discharged to other settings such as community hospitals, or to their home with support from carers, as advised in national guidance.

“Health and care staff are doing their absolute best in incredibly challenging circumstances with the resources available at the time, so the blame game must stop.”

Latest figures suggest around 15,000 care home residents have died with the virus.

Ms Cordery said it was for a public inquiry to “establish why mortality in care homes has run so high”, adding: “We can see that the failures of testing to date and the supply of PPE have hit the care sector particularly hard and remain problematic.”

At a Downing Street briefing on Wednesday, NHS England’s national medical director Stephen Powis said patients would not have been discharged from care homes if doctors did not believe it was safe.

Professor Stephen Powis (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright)
Professor Stephen Powis (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

“I’m absolutely sure that my medical colleagues would not be discharging patients under any circumstances unless they were sure that their medical treatment in hospital was complete, they were fit for discharge and it was safe to discharge them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden denied the Government had “glossed over” past mistakes with the spread of coronavirus in care homes.

“It’s categorically not the case that we have glossed over this,” he told the briefing.

“Of course, in any public health crisis like this there will be a time for lessons to be learned afterwards but I think the public rightly want us now to be focusing on dealing with this.”

Giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee on Tuesday, Prof Green claimed the Government had focused on the NHS while discharging infected patients into care homes.

“We also saw people being discharged from hospital when we didn’t have the testing regime up and running,” he told MPs.

“So despite what’s been said, there were cases of people who either didn’t have a Covid-19 status, or who were symptomatic, who were discharged into care homes.

“Now given that care homes are full of people with underlying health conditions, I think we should’ve looked at focusing on where the people at most risk were, rather than thinking about a particular organisation.”

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