The plight of staff and residents in care homes during the COVID-19 outbreak has made major headlines across the UK, and tragically, the death toll among residents has been a serious concern.
On 3 May, National Records of Scotland (NRS) revealed that more than a third of the total COVID-19 deaths in Scotland had, at that time, occurred in care homes. According to a report by the BBC on 12 May around a quarter of all known COVID-19 fatalities in Great Britain had been care homes residents,
If you have been affected by the crisis, either as a care-home resident, the relative of a resident or as a care home member of staff, we are here to help stay informed and seek justice. Talk to Thompsons today for information about your right to a safe place to live and work.
Our "Can I Make a Claim?" page has lots of useful information about making a civil claim for compensation.
Guidance for care homes
In mid-May, a storm emerged in Downing Street between the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, over guidance which appeared in the early stages of the outbreak in the UK.
On 25 February, Public Health England published guidance "intended for the current position in the UK where there is currently no transmission of COVID-19 in the community."
Going on to say, "It is therefore very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected. There is no need to do anything differently in any care setting at present."
This guidance was withdrawn on March 13.
Sir Keir also quoted comments made in the Telegraph newspaper by a COVID cardiologist who said that hospitals had "actively seeded" the virus into the "most vulnerable" population by discharging "known, suspected and unknown cases into care homes".
The situation in care homes, where many people feel the handling of the crisis has been a travesty and many deaths should and could have been prevented, is a growing matter of injustice.
COVID-19 testing in care homes for staff and residents
Health Protection Scotland (HPS) published country specific guidance on 26 April: COVID-19: Information and Guidance for Care Home Settings.
It was only late into April when the UK government confirmed that all care home staff and residents would be eligible for testing even if they were asymptomatic (not showing symptoms). The HPS guidance (version1.2) quotes the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who announced changes to testing of Scotland's care home residents and staff on 1 May.
"We now intend to undertake enhanced outbreak investigation in all care homes where there are any cases of COVID - this will involve testing, subject to individuals' consent, all residents and staff, whether or not they have symptoms. In addition, where a care home with an outbreak is part of a group or chain and staff might still be moving between homes, we will also carry out urgent testing in any linked homes.
"We will also begin sampling testing in care homes where there are no cases. By definition this will also include testing residents and staff who are not symptomatic. This is a significant expansion and we do not underestimate the logistical and workforce requirements. Now we have the increasing testing capacity, we will make it happen as swiftly as practicable."
PPE in care homes
A shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) meant care homes had to compete with the NHS and other healthcare facilities to obtain enough, adequate equipment. By mid-April, as concerns were growing over the lack of PPE available for care home workers and residents, Scottish Health Secretary Jayne Freeman announced that extra supplies would be delivered to more than 1,000 care homes across Scotland.
However, on 3 May it was reported in the press that "an experienced Scots nurse" had walked out of her job in a care home because of the lack of access to PPE and she warned that other members of staff felt similarly aggrieved.
UNISON assistant general secretary Christine McAnea said, "PPE shortages are placing staff in an impossible position. It's wrong to expect staff in residential homes and out in the community to put themselves, their families and those they care for at risk."
Amid fears that widespread alleged failings in care homes across Scotland will result in a terrible death toll amongst care home staff and residents, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady has called on government ministers to commit to an independent judge-led inquiry into the PPE distribution problems by the end of 2020.
In the following video Clare Campbell talks briefly about the failings of initial government advice in respect of care homes and care of elderly patients.
Care home concerns – Talk to Thompsons
Naturally, the family and friends of anyone connected to a care home, either as a resident or staff member, have been extremely worried during this time and many believe the stark toll of deaths has been caused by gross misjudgment and mishandling of the COVID-19 situation for care homes.
As a care home resident or staff member, you have the right to be safe. If you are concerned about the handling of the coronavirus crisis in your care home, you can talk to us today. We are here to provide all the information and support you need.
Call 0800 0891 331 or fill in our online claim form so we can call you back to discuss your circumstances.