Exclusive: Covid-positive carers are treating infected care home residents

Gabriella Swerling
·4 min read
The Telegraph understands that the warning was sent out to every care home on Tuesday after health officials were made aware of an isolated case of covid-positive staff treating residents - against government guidance.   - Peter Byrne /PA 
The Telegraph understands that the warning was sent out to every care home on Tuesday after health officials were made aware of an isolated case of covid-positive staff treating residents - against government guidance. - Peter Byrne /PA

Covid-positive carers are knowingly entering care homes to treat infected patients, The Telegraph can reveal.

In accordance with government guidelines, all care home staff are required to isolate if they either have tested positive for COVID-19, have symptoms of the disease, or are suspected to have come into contact with someone who has.

However the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has been forced to issue an edict to every care home in the country after it emerged that asymptomatic, covid-positive carers have been entering care homes in order to look after residents who have also tested positive.

In a joint statement with the care watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), government health officials warned that it would take “swift regulatory action” against carers breaking the rules.

Their statement read: “Under no circumstances should staff who have tested positive for Covid-19, regardless of whether they are displaying symptoms or not, work in a care setting until the legally required period of self-isolation has ended.”

The Telegraph understands that the warning was sent out to every care home on Tuesday after health officials were made aware of an isolated case of covid-positive staff treating residents - against government guidance.

A review was then carried out to see if this was more widespread, and it emerged that there were “a few cases” of this happening across the country. It is believed that the total number of premises that this trend has occurred is less than 10.

The CQC and DHSC statement also comes amid fears that not all care home residents have received their vaccination against COVID-19, and amid concern that the uptake among staff may not be high enough.

According to figures released by the National Care Forum (NCF) this week analysing data from 750 homes in England, 95 per cent care homes have their residents vaccinated, but only 50 per cent of staff.

Furthermore, Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association (NCA), said that at least one in every 17 care workers, equating to 90,000 staff, may be rejecting immunisation.

She described the figures as “worrying”, although added that the proportion of staff declining to take the vaccine had fallen significantly since the roll-out began.

More than 30,000 care home residents have died of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, and the DHSC and CQC statement has prompted anger among care professionals who are “horrified” that a minority of providers are risking the health of residents and staff.

Donna Pierpoint, manager of Sheffield's only charity Care Home for the elderly. Broomgrove Trust, described the revelation as “scary”, adding: “Is it just me who is horrified at the thought that some managers are allowing positive staff to continue to work in the home?”

She added: “It's unbelievable that staff are working while testing positive! And they wonder why coronavirus is in care homes.

“All this news about relatives not being allowed to visit because they will bring Covid into care homes when in fact the staff - who are meant to be keeping residents safe - are the ones giving it to them!”

The campaign group, Rights for Residents, also said: “How can this be? We are always told that everything is being done to protect staff, carers and residents.”

Gill Elwell, an elderly care service researcher and former care manager and director, said: “This is happening in the community, managers are either not understanding the guidance or taking chancers. Some value business over lives.”

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that care home residents make up almost a third of all COVID-19 fatalities.

There were 94,971 total deaths from the virus in England and Wales as of January 15, according to the ONS, 30,851 of which were in care homes (32.4 per cent).

At the Downing Street briefing earlier this week health secretary Matt Hancock said that 78.7 per cent of the over-80s have received a vaccine.

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?