Care company warns insurance changes could impact most vulnerable
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A home care provider is concerned insurance policy changes will mean it can no longer offer support to people who have tested positive for coronavirus, putting an already stretched social care system under even more pressure.
Elite Care Cromer (ECC) provides domiciliary care and support to people in their own homes.
The business, which works closely with Norfolk County Council and the NHS, has been operating throughout the pandemic, supporting around 75 clients in and around Cromer, the majority of whom are aged over 75 and are vulnerable.
When ECC's annual public liability insurance renewal came through in January, Therese Carver, the company owner, noticed a clause had been added stating it must inform its insurance broker immediately and before it accepted any service users with a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis or those displaying symptoms, to ensure its insurance policy would not become invalidated.
But, Ms Carver has said decisions between her, NCC and health care professionals on whether ECC has the capacity to accept a new client are taken within minutes, and the requirement to seek permission and perform a risk assessment would put a stretched system under even more pressure.
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She added that the issue was further complicated by a statement added to all requests for support from NCC which informs providers patients may be discharged from hospital with coronavirus test results pending and "home care providers should assume that the person may be COVID positive for a 10-day period."
Now, Ms Carver is concerned the policy change will mean she will have to turn clients away unless she has written confirmation they have tested negative for coronavirus.
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She said insurance had never been an issue before the pandemic: "We're stretched, the NHS is stretched but we want to be able to support the NHS better.
"We just need clarity on how best we can continue with things covering our staff and the service users because if something were to go wrong I cannot even begin to think, I would personally lose everything I had ever worked for."
A spokesperson for Towergate Insurance, Ms Carver's broker, said: "Insurance is bought annually, and a lot can change in a year. If a care provider decides they want to accept service users who have a positive Covid-19 diagnosis or are displaying symptoms for the first time then we ask that they inform us so we can ensure that their public liability cover remains valid."
They said after requesting more information in "most occasions" recommended insurer partners continued to include Covid-19 in public liability policies "for existing service users."
"Many other insurers have a blanket exclusion on all communicable diseases, including Covid-19. In this instance a public liability insurance policy wouldn’t cover claims made against the care provider by members of the public or service users in relation to Covid-19. However it would not invalidate their entire insurance policy or prevent them from accepting Covid-19 positive patients," they said.
A spokesperson for NCC said the local authority was aware of ECC's case, had reported it to the Department of Health and Social Care, and was advising any other providers experiencing similar issues to contact NCC.
They said: "We know that nationally care providers are experiencing some COVID-19 related issues due to decisions taken by the insurance companies without consultation, although these have not been widely experienced in Norfolk.
"We are working closely with the small number of providers in Norfolk impacted by these insurance issues to ensure continuity of care delivery.
"Our priority is to keep people safe, and for that reason, we will continue to advise care providers to treat any individuals with pending test results as Covid positive to ensure the safety of other residents and staff.”