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Coronavirus deaths in Kent are set to exceed 1,000 this week

June 5, 2020 9:36 AM
By Trudy Dean

There were 997 at 22 May. On 25th May, the most recent data available, the Office for National Statistics reported 255 deaths in care homes in Kent for which Covid-19 is listed on the death certificate. That is over a quarter of all Kent deaths.

A new report shows how care home residents and staff remain particularly exposed due to persistent problems, including getting tests and protective clothing (PPE).

Kent County Council has completed a 'template' of information for Government from information supplied by all 543 care homes in Kent at the end of May, and it makes scary reading. You can read the tempolate and the accompanying letter by clicking here.

Over 120 care homes in Kent report continued problems getting protective clothing. This is astonishing weeks after Government claimed PPE was available for all who needed it.

Care Home Worker and ResidentOn 17th March Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive, instructed all hospitals to urgently discharge patients to care homes. Patients were discharged in a rush without routine testing taking place to check if they were still infected. Many care homes refused to admit discharged hospital clients, but many others felt obliged to do so.

Last week, almost half of all care homes were reporting that there was no testing of residents discharged from hospital into their care. There do not appear to have been any step-down beds provided in Kent, as there are elsewhere, so that discharged patients could be quarantined until they were proved free of infection.

138 homes say staff work in more than one care home, and 135 homes are unable to isolate infected residents. Despite this, over two-thirds of Kent care homes have still not been able to get swab tests to identify infected staff and residents quickly. Homes report that the Government on-line portal to order tests often doesn't work, swab tests do not arrive or are not collected, and there are delays in getting results. There are only two mobile testing units for the whole of Kent and Medway carrying out tests in areas of high demand, such as at care homes.

These failings in the testing system mean that the spread of infection is not being stopped as quickly as possible, especially as care home staff need regular testing to ensure they remain free of the disease as they move between patients, other care homes and their own residences.

It also probably means Covid-19 deaths in care homes are in reality being under-reported. GPs may be reluctant to identify Coronavirus as a cause of death unless a positive test has been carried out, especially as in some cases GPs have followed advice not to enter care homes.

In the face of all these problems reported direct from the front line only last week, the Government's claim to have put their arms around care homes from the start seems very hollow indeed.

Now the Government has passed responsibility for preventing and controlling the spread of Covid-19 in Kent's care homes to the County Council. But until the Government gets a grip on testing and tracing and PPE supplies, there is little more that KCC can do.

Earlier today the Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said: "The latest figures from the ONS show the sheer scale of the Coronavirus crisis in our care homes. The figures suggest many people with undiagnosed COVID-19 were released from hospital back to care homes, which clearly fuelled the coronavirus tragedy in our care homes leading to the UK having the worst death rate in Europe.

"Each one of these deaths is a tragedy, and the toll on families that couldn't attend funerals for their loved ones is heartbreaking.

"The Government must explain how this crisis in our care homes happened and confirm there will be a full and speedy independent inquiry so we can learn from these serious mistakes and keep people safe in the future."

The KCC template can be viewed at www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/coronavirus/support-for-kent-care-homes