Some care homes in Southwark already have enough PPE to get them through the winter, according to an update report going to the health and social care scrutiny commission next week (November 10).  

As England heads into another lockdown, Southwark Council officers have outlined how prepared care homes are now, and what measures are in place to protect vulnerable 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 followed a positive test for Covid-19.   

But now, in contrast to the first wave when thousands of patients were admitted to care homes without being tested, no one can be admitted to a Southwark home without a test.  

Public Health Southwark also has a local backup system in place if the national system falters.  

According to the report: “All of the care homes for all client groups in Southwark are clear that they will not take an existing resident or a new resident from hospital without them being tested first and receiving the results.” 

In line with current guidelines, there are designated discharge destinations for those who have tested positive for Covid-19 in hospital.  

Those patients can only be transferred to a care home that the CQC has inspected and approved as a designated site that meets the infection prevention and control (IPC) standards and have adequate supplies of PPE. 

If a resident or member of staff tests positive for the virus, the local public health team will advise the care home on what steps to take. 

The council is doing weekly calls and fortnightly meetings with care homes, and has set up a dedicated GP services for older people care homes.  

A WhatsApp group between health professionals was also set up and continues.  

Daily reports and monitoring through the national capacity tracker now shows any home whose supply of PPE is dropping. 

“This activates an immediate conversation with the care home to ensure they have arrangements in place for timely delivery of new supplies,” according to the report.  

In the wake of the pandemic, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), working with the council, offered IPC training to care home staff – all of the Southwark CQC registered homes took up the offer.  

Training has continued and is led by the lead nurse for IPC in Southwark CCG. 

The council established an ‘infection control link group’ to share good practice, identify emerging problems and offer bespoke training to tackle them.  

Residential care homes are also being supplied with and trained on Pulse Oximeters, a medical device that indirectly monitors the oxygen saturation of a patient’s blood.  

There is also a big push to ensure that staff working in care homes are a “priority group and can have the flu vaccination for free” after it emerged some care staff were having difficulty getting it.

“The CCG is looking at how to resolve this situation,” the report states.  

During the first national lockdown care homes stopped family and friends from visiting, with some exceptions such as when a resident was nearing the end of their lives.  

Over the summer, family and friends were allowed garden visits with strict safety measures in place and by appointment only.   

According to the report, homes are planning for winter visits in different ways – some homes have alternative entry points to set up a visiting area, others have put in log cabins in their gardens or gazebos.  

However it is unclear if this will be allowed during lockdown.

There were conversations around classifying visitors as key workers, but according to the report “responses were mixed, highlighting that this could be complicated”. 

As it stands, compassionate visits are allowed “but with limited numbers”, and homes are holding virtual meetings with family and friends.