Care homes have been told they will be expected to make room for coronavirus patients who have been discharged from hospital, despite the policy being blamed for spread of the virus earlier in the year.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has sent a letter to providers urging them to prepare “isolation” rooms as the number of deaths continues to rise.
However the plans, seen by The Telegraph, have sparked a backlash from care home managers, who have said the notion of having Covid-positive patients in the same building as vulnerable residents is “laughable”.
Sam Monaghan, the chief executive of the Methodist Homes care provider, said he was “highly concerned” about the prospect of people who had tested positive for coronavirus being admitted to care homes.
He added: “We would be highly concerned, as we were at the outbreak of Covid, in terms of people who had tested positive coming into closed communities where the risk of spread is considerable.”
More than 15,000 care home residents have died of the virus, according to the latest Office for National Statistics data.
At the peak of the pandemic, care home managers critcised the Government and said they had been forced to take in Covid-positive patients who had been discharged from hospital without adequate guidance, personal protective equipment and testing.
The Telegraph has seen a copy of the DHSC letter, sent to local authority chief executives, clinical commissioning group CEOs, acute trust CEOs and directors of public health.
It said: “Anyone with a Covid-19 positive test result being discharged into or back into a registered care home setting must be discharged into appropriate designated setting (ie that has the policies, procedures, equipment and training in place to maintain infection control and support the care needs of residents) and cared for there for the remainder of the required isolation period.”
It added that if care providers cannot provide “appropriate isolation facilities”, the local authority will be required to take over care of the patient.
Responding to the letter, Professor Martin Green, the CEO of Care England, said: “In order to participate in the designated care settings scheme it is vital that providers have a much greater degree of detail – for example information on leaving the facility, care functions on offer, refusal of visits, role of the regulator and of course funding considerations.
“How this scheme will be viable for providers and how it will impact upon their workforce needs to be scoped out in more detail in order for it to be successful.
“Given the incredible role that the adult social care workforce has played during this dreadful pandemic, we need to be mindful that they must not be overloaded.”
A DHSC spokesperson said its priority was “the prevention of infection in care homes”, adding: “We are working with the CQC and the NHS to ensure that everyone discharged to a care home has an up-to-date Covid test result, with anyone who is Covid-positive being discharged to a care home that the CQC has assured is able to provide care and support for people who are Covid-positive.”