Telemedicine should be used as a first port of call to consult on care home residents with Covid symptoms, new guidance from a local authority says, sparking fears of “needless deaths”.

Bradford Council alerted care providers late on Thursday night with the guidelines. Seen by The Telegraph, they say: “Care home staff concerned about a person who may have Covid-19 symptoms are being asked to contact telemedicine through the laptop for fast access to urgent advice from a senior clinician.

“Before calling, record observations where possible: Date of first symptoms, blood pressure, pulse respiratory rate and temperature (refer to thermometer instruction). Please have access to any care plan, future wishes documents for your person.”

The service is being offered by the local health and care system in conjunction with NHS partners. 

But the guidance has sparked fears among care home managers and providers that telemedicine will become the default treatment for elderly and vulnerable residents.

One manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “My great fear is that we have learnt nothing since April. Our experience then was that elderly residents of care homes were declined ambulance and hospital treatment, that care  home managers were instructed to treat a resident with Covid as ‘end of life’.

“Caring for Covid residents in care homes can and does lead to more elderly contracting the virus. Despite all the precautions and protocols our nation’s dedicated staff undertake, this was proven to be the case in April and today in hospitals.

“If a care home resident develops Covid symptoms and may be denied access to hospital or a dedicated Covid-only home, then care homes in all probability, based on previous outbreaks, will once again become a breeding ground. This will result in many, many more deaths despite the very best care being delivered in full PPE, by our nation’s wonderful care staff.”

The manager warned that “to leave two or three residents in each care home across the country with active Covid will produce the same results this time around as in April – needless deaths of our elderly”.

Tens of thousands of care home residents have died of coronavirus, according to the Office for National Statistics.

A spokesman for Bradford Council said: “It’s not in the best interest of the care home residents in times of Covid for different staff from health agencies to be going into care homes.

“The guidance given to care homes is to use the telemedicine service before they call an ambulance or their own GP if they suspect a resident may have Covid-19. An agreement can then be reached together on what is best for that particular resident at that particular time. 

“A decision on where they should best receive treatment will be made with clinicians and, if their condition requires it, they will be conveyed to hospital.”

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