Northamptonshire's care home workers set for coronavirus testing

Care homes have been hit by coronavirus outbreaks across the country in recent weeks leading to fears for the safety of staff and residents.

Testing for care workers who have Covid-19 symptoms is to be done at Northampton General Hospital.
Testing for care workers who have Covid-19 symptoms is to be done at Northampton General Hospital.

Northamptonshire’s care home workers who are showing signs of coronavirus symptoms will soon be offered testing.

Northamptonshire County Council – which has been leading the coronavirus emergency effort – has said it is working closely with health partners to make sure that the hundreds of care homes in the county are supported during the crisis.

Thousands of elderly UK residents are thought to have died in care homes and in the community over the past month, with the government only announcing deaths in hospital as part of its daily death toll tally. So far more than 13,000 people in the UK have died from the virus in hospitals.

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One care home in Stanwick said last week that four of its residents had died after an outbreak and a further three had tested positive for the virus.

Now the county council has said that shortly care workers will be able to receive testing at Northampton General Hospital if they show Covid-19 symptoms.

A hardship fund has been set up that can be accessed by care homes that could be under financial pressure during the crisis. It has also set up a provider support hub to provide advice and take requests for personal protective equipment, which is vital in keeping staff safe when caring for ill residents. A weekly webinar for all care homes also takes place to answer questions, offer advice and better understanding any challenges that are arising.

The council and the clinical commissioning group are also co-ordinating a cycle of contacting all care and support providers to check they are coping.

The council says all symptomatic and confirmed incidences of Covid-19 across the care sector are being monitored and recorded, and action is being taken to support providers with infection control and ensuring appropriate PPE is available to them.

Cabinet member for adult social care Cllr Ian Morris said: “Care providers are playing a hugely essential role right now, caring for some of our most vulnerable residents and so we are working closely with Northamptonshire CCG to ensure they are properly supported through this difficult period.

“This includes monitoring instances of Covid-19 in Northamptonshire care homes, providing a hardship fund to help manage any financial pressures and maintaining regular communication with care and support providers to make sure they have all the information and resources they need to keep everyone safe during such an unprecedented situation.”

Since the start of the pandemic the county freed up hundreds of hospital beds in the county’s two acute hospitals to make way for coronavirus patients. Many were placed in care homes with others moving in with family.

Cllr Morris said how the situation of how the hospital beds were made available so quickly was ‘the million dollar question’ that would need to be answered after the crisis was over. Patients stranded in hospitals when well enough to leave has been a big problem in the county for many years.

Manager of the Burton Oakes Residential and Dementia Care Home in Burton Latimer Menelyn Atienza said that all members of staff and residents were currently well. The home has had three residents move in on a 12 week contract from Northamptonshire County Council.

She said: “We are all good and have had no cases so far, so fingers crossed that continues.

“Our staff are going home at the end of a shift, but they change their clothes and come in again the next day. We are observing infection control measures and have had guidance emails from the county council which have been really helpful.”

Providers can contact the hub directly via [email protected] and 01604 361311.