A new drive will see millions spent to control outbreaks of coronavirus in Norfolk’s care homes - and to protect residents from being exposed to the virus.

Eastern Daily Press: Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives. (Image: Norfolk Conservatives)

There have been more than 100 coronavirus deaths in Norfolk’s care homes, with cases in about a third of the homes in the county.

But Norfolk has been given £12.4m from the government’s £600m care sector infection control pot and a new package of support is being launched to protect care homes, their residents and their staff.

A multi-agency team, including from the council and NHS, has been set up to help deal with outbreaks.

The team has a virtual incident room to help manage any outbreak of Covid-19 and get care providers access to testing and personal protective equipment.

The support which care homes will get include:

• Helping care providers to get timely tests for residents and staff, through the national system or local testing service. Community staff are now able to go in and carry out tests at care homes in Norfolk and Waveney.

• Testing at care homes is being prioritised for those with residents aged over 65, those with 50 or more beds and those near areas with known outbreaks of coronavirus.

• Specialist support and guidance to manage any outbreak.

• Training and advice on infection control and use of protective personal equipment.

Cath Byford, chief nurse of NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We have offered support and training to care providers for a long time and we are enhancing that in the light of COVID-19, such as additional infection control training to roll out to staff.”

Norfolk Care Association director, Christine Futter, said: “This package is wide ranging and reflects the need for immediate action as well as bespoke responses to individual provider needs.

“The focus here is on care homes but we are mindful of the amazing work being done by all social care providers and will continue to raise the need for appropriate support across the entire social care system.”

MORE: Did coronavirus reach west Norfolk before lockdown?Bill Borrett, the council’s cabinet member for adult social care and public health and chair of Norfolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “This new money will go straight to care homes to support them, as we recognise that they are the new frontline of efforts to tackle Covid-19.

“We’re working to support care providers and their residents and staff jointly with the NHS. We have a virtual incident room, which enables us to respond quickly to prevent or manage outbreaks and help providers to access testing and PPE.”

But there was criticism that the money to help care homes should have been given by the government earlier.

Dan Roper, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, said: “This plan and the additional government money are both welcome but are long overdue given how many weeks we are into the crisis.

“We are also still waiting for the full picture of how Covid-19 has impacted on the care homes in different parts of Norfolk.”

Care providers who run homes are encouraged to call the virtual incident room directly on 01603 257231 or email at nwccg.cpir@nhs.net if they have any questions or concerns relating to Covid-19.

MORE: Plans for local coronavirus lockdowns not in place until July