Lewisham Council is aiming to have a designated care home to take in elderly Covid-19 positive patients who are discharged from hospital by the end of the month.  

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has written to local authorities asking them to identify a group of designated homes, in what could be an attempt to avoid repeating what Amnesty International has labelled a series of “shockingly irresponsible” decisions which “violated” the human rights of care home residents.  

Between March and June this year, more than 28,000 ‘excess deaths’ were recorded in care homes in England and Wales, two thirds of them from Covid-19.  

During the first wave, the Government made the decision to discharge thousands of patients from hospitals into care homes without testing them for coronavirus – a policy which some say increased the spread.  

Care home managers also said they felt forced to take patients in and did not have access to adequate amounts of PPE or testing.  

Speaking to the overview and scrutiny business panel on Tuesday night (October 13), head of public services Ralph Wilkinson said the homes will need to be checked by the Care Quality Commission to ensure they are in a “fit state to manage positive cases”.  

“Last time there were some questions around the discharge of positive cases into care homes and today we got a letter from the DHSC regarding the discharge of positive cases from hospitals into care homes.  

“We’re now required to designate care homes and they need to be checked by the CQC to ensure those care homes […] have got the right infection control measures in place and we need to have a least one of those by the end of this month,” he said.  

Mr Wilkinson said the move follows on from the “learning in the first wave” and “some of the tragic deaths”.  

“We will need to designate a care home that the CQC will have checked that is in a fit state to manage positive cases and keep them safe, the staff safe, and anybody else safe that might be at that care home at that time.  

“No easy ask and our challenge is to get at least one in place by the end of the month,” he said. 

The details emerged alongside a Covid-19 update for Lewisham – the borough has the 11th highest cumulative number of deaths from the virus of all London boroughs, with a 73 out of 100,000 seven-day infection rate.  

At the end of September, there were 293 registered deaths from Covid-19 in Lewisham.  

However, it has the 7th lowest rate of care home deaths in London “when you compare on a like for like basis”. 

“Over the last six weeks the number of those with Black ethnic origin appear to be decreasing in terms of cases and increasing in terms of white origin.  

“But six weeks is quite a short period to be looking at so it’s really too early to draw any conclusions as a result of that,” Mr Wilkinson said.