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Care homes are ‘battlefront’ for coronavirus, warns Norfolk’s worried social care boss

PUBLISHED: 12:04 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:42 28 April 2020

James Bullion, executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County Council

James Bullion, executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County Council

Archant

One in five care homes in the region have had outbreaks of coronavirus, prompting the head of adult social care in Norfolk to say the social care sector is now the “battlefront” for the pandemic.

James Bullion, Norfolk County Council’s director of adult social care, called on the government to ramp up testing in the homes and to do more to ensure staff working in them have proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

He warned that unless that happens - and more is done to ensure people being discharged from hospitals are not risking infecting other people in care homes - the infection rate could surge further.

Mr Bullion said: “I think we are now realising that the battlefront for COVID-19 is in the social care sector now.

“We need to ensure that we do not have a situation where we go from the current infection rate of one in five to three in five and that means making sure care homes have the right PPE and that hospital discharges are safe, so that we do not spread infections around that way either.”

Speaking to BBC Look East, he said: “We know this virus is deadly for these vulnerable people. I do not want people to feel overanxious, but what I want is for the government and for the local NHS to turn their attention to support for social care so we minimise the risk.”

Mr Bullion said that about 15 to 20pc of care homes in the region have had at least one instance of coronavirus and it was “absolutely” vital to protect other residents, along with care staff.

He said: “We have seen estimates of it rising to 60pc to 70pc if we do not take steps to personal protection equipment for our staff and the way that they care for people, testing for care home staff and residents and making sure we do not have discharges of people who are at risk of COVID-19 spreading infection further. It is a real worry.”

Norfolk County Council and the NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are working to get a new step-down centre ready in north Norfolk to ease pressure on hospitals and care homes.

Recruitment has started for 60 positions at the new centre at Cawston Lodge, which would have beds for up to 40 people, including those who have had the virus and have been discharged from the county’s hospitals.

MORE: Figures show one in four care home deaths in Norfolk related to coronavirus

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