Council honours ‘home care first’ strategy in COVID-19 discharges dispute

Home Caregiver with senior woman in bathroom

Reading Borough Council has refused to comply with the government’s request to identify care homes where COVID-19 patients could be discharged from hospital, instead championing home care as the safest solution for its residents.

In a letter to Tom Surrey, director of the Department of Health and Social Care, the council expressed its ‘disappointment’ at the government’s recent call to local authorities to find care homes for COVID-19 patients, pending the completion of social isolation or a negative test.

The council said it believes in developing local solutions – including allowing patients to return home with a tailored package of ‘wrap around’ support and reablement – would be the safer and more effective alternative.

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The letter, signed by Seona Douglas, Reading Borough Council’s executive director for Social Care & Health, alongside other Adult Social Care directors, said: “In Berkshire West we consider that it is not acceptable to ask care homes to take new admission patients who are tested positive for COVID19 and are potentially infectious. This is based on our experiences earlier in the pandemic, which have left many care settings very worn down with the impact that this has had for the residents and their families, some suffering significantly.

“Many of our care homes would struggle to convert their premises to accommodate safely such patients without this affecting others, despite the measures many have put in place to manage the risks.”

The letter goes on to say: “The ‘Home First’ principle is embedded in our system as the most appropriate  way to encourage  independence and well-being for our residents, hence we wish to consider alternatives to those proposed in your letters in order to manage COVID-19 positive discharges.” 

Tony Jones, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Adult Social Care, said: “For many years the Council in Reading has successfully championed home care for people discharged from hospital as the best solution which provides the best possible outcomes for patients. We firmly believe that is the safest and most effective way forward in Reading, and we have said that to Government.

“We are also extremely surprised that while it is Councils who are being asked to provide care homes places for COVID patients, the funding for this work is instead allocated to health partners.”

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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