Care home coronavirus risks not tackled quickly enough, says care boss

James Bullion, Norfolk County Council adult social care director and president of the Association of

James Bullion, Norfolk County Council adult social care director and president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Select Committee on coronavirus Pic: PA Wire - Credit: PA

Norfolk’s adult social care boss has told the government the UK did not act quickly enough to recognise the risk to care homes of people with coronavirus going back to them after being treated in hospital.

Giving evidence to the government’s health and social care committee, Norfolk County Council’s adult social care director James Bullion reiterated his concerns that testing of staff in care homes is still not widespread.

Mr Bullion, who is president of ADASS, the national organisation for directors of adult social services, said more needed to be done to get care workers who visit people in their own homes tested, labelling the current government commitment to that as “inadequate”.

Mr Bullion said: “I think there’s a huge part for testing to play in reassuring both staff and people in receipt of care actually that the person coming into your home has had a recent test and has had a result that says that they’re negative.

“And there isn’t widespread testing. It is growing, but the care workforce is 1.6m in this country, so we are nowhere near the level of testing that’s required.”

Mr Bullion also referred to a survey which suggested there is about a 10pc incidence of people switching off their personal care - either home care or personal assistance - whilst they protect themselves.

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“There is a kind of mirror here that’s potentially going on in home care, which is the mirror of the deaths in care homes may be being caused by people taking action to protect themselves from infection but not necessarily taking care of their health and their wellbeing in the intervening period.”

It comes amid concerns agency staff working in more than one home had been inadvertently spreading the disease.

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Mr Bullion said that, in Norfolk, some of the £12m the county council received from a £600m government infection fund pot is being use to “tie” agency workers to specific homes, to prevent the spread.

But he said the fact temporary staff had been working in numerous homes was due to a lack of a proper national solution to the social care issue.

He said: “We have been sleep walking without a work force strategy for adult social care for three to five years.”

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