Union warns care home inspectors could become Covid spreaders without testing

Care home inspectors could spread coronavirus if they are not tested regularly, a union has warned.

Cases of Covid-19 are increasing again across the UK, with 63 people dying of the disease in care settings in the week to October 9, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Last week the Department of Health said that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) would be ready to approve 500 care homes by the end of November for the safe discharge of patients from hospital during the second wave.

The approvals would be dependant on a CQC inspection to ensure they meet the regulator’s infection control standards.

Now the GMB union is saying that the “vulnerable industry” could be left at risk by the process if regular tests are not available.

Kelly Andrews, the social care lead at GMB, said: “Inspectors don’t just walk around the home, clip board in hand ticking boxes; they sit and speak to the residents and staff to fully understand what the real issues within the home are – as they should.

“Without regular testing that will put them at risk of contracting and spreading the virus”.

Meanwhile, an industry body has called for a circuit-breaker style lockdown in England to halt the spread of infection and rising death rates in care homes.

The Independent Care Group (ICG) said: “We cannot let Covid-19 take so many people as it did in the first wave.”

Chairman Mike Padgham (pictured) explained: “Reluctantly, I think the time has come for a short, sharp lockdown to try to stop the second wave in its tracks.

“We are now starting to see more significant increases in the number of Covid-19 deaths in care and nursing homes and we have to act quickly.”

He added: “At the moment we have people travelling all over the place, from areas of high infection rate to low areas, so the virus is bound to spread and spread. It is regrettable, but I feel the only way is to lock down again and protect our oldest and most vulnerable in particular, until we can regain control.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our testing policy is based on scientific advice to limit the spread of Covid-19 and save lives, and prioritises health and care staff who are in direct, personal contact with patients and residents.

“CQC inspectors are not required to make personal contact, however everyone working in care homes including inspectors, should follow proper infection prevention and control measures including correct use of PPE and hand washing to stop the spread of the virus.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) The Independent Care Group.