Hertfordshire County Council has been praised for the “excellent” support is has given to social care providers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
CEO Owen Mapley has outlined examples of how the council has supported providers in a letter to the Minster of Care, Helen Whitely, including the launch of a Provider Hub, a 15% increase in domiciliary care fees and help with PPE distribution and arranging testing.
Sharing the letter on Twitter, David Williams, leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: “Very proud of the steps taken locally by Hertfordshire County Council (Adult Care Services, Hertfordshire Care Providers Association and health partners to support care providers locally.”
Praising the council, Dr Jane Townson, CEO of United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA), said: “Excellent support from @HertsACS to care providers. We understand that @hertscc is also giving £140 per home care client for May and June to support infection control. We hope other councils follow suit.”
The letter explains that from March 12, the council established a Provider Hub in collaboration with the Hertfordshire Care Providers Association (HCPA) to provide a seven-day telephone helpline, email support and FAQs for care providers to access information and support with any issues and concerns.
Support ranged from access to PPE (requirements, sourcing and organising urgent deliveries from the Local Resilience Forum); keyworker status and ID cards; staff capacity issues, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) procedures and correct use of PPE; staff support and training; clinical supplies; accessing food; and cleaning.
“The Provider Hub is supported by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to share intelligence, cascade national guidance, guarding against repetitive calls to providers and to escalate any issues that cannot be resolved locally,” Mapley said in the letter, dated May 29.
Through HCPA, a range of online training has been made available along with other resources and latest government guidance.
The Provider Hub has also allocated and distributed up to 25,000 emergency sets of PPE per week since the beginning of April, but the council warned that the supply of PPE remains and ongoing concern and challenge for providers in Hertfordshire.
“We will be seeking reassurances from the government that the supply chain can continue to support frontline care workers as well as health professionals in the community who play such as pivotal role in supporting care homes and home care services,” said Mapley.
In terms of workforce support, HCPA has engaged with 446 providers to meet the challenges of maintaining safe staffing levels.
Mapley said there has also been an “excellent response” from health partners to redeploy staff to support care homes and home care.
“This includes redirecting staff to support safe discharges, prevention of admission and support homes with infection and control. In addition to the above contingency measures, there is now a ‘bank’ of furloughed staff that can be redeployed, and unemployed (but experienced and qualified) staff that can hit the ground running so that we are prepared for further emergencies coming through the Provider Hub or recruitment team,” he explained.
In order to ease financial pressures facing providers, Hertfordshire County Council unveiled plans in January to put an extra £12 million into the pockets of the county’s care workforce.
Since then, it has provided residential and nursing care homes with fee uplifts of 5.7% and 7.8% respectively and an increase of 15.07% for domiciliary care for the entirety of 20/21 as the new baseline for care fees.
“Funded through increases in the social care precept, these proposals reflect the council’s commitment to social care and the thousands of people making a real difference in our communities each and every day,” said Mapley.
The council has also supported providers with additional costs incurred due to COVID-19, such as PPE, through a claims process, which is not limited to a set amount.