According to the Nursing Times, emergency planning is being conducted. This is to limit the potential impact of a severe COVID-19 outbreak in the UK social care sector.
As a result, former social care workers who are seeking to return to the industry may have their criminal record checks relaxed. Furthermore, staff may potentially be relocated to places where the coronavirus impact is more severe.
“It must be recognised that smaller homes will be challenged in many ways,” says Dr Crystal Oldman.
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty yesterday confirmed this to the Health and Social Care Select Committee. The UK was heading to the government’s second “delay” stage of their virus action plan.
Care homes may be forced to close, and residents relocated to NHS facilities. If emergency measures are not enacted, this will put excess pressure on a system already at its limits.
The Guardian has reported that the Department of Health and Social Care has asked if checks would disrupt emergency plans. These reports were not disputed by the government.
As a result, workers who have retired or left work and have expired background checks may be allowed back into work. This is a response to the coronavirus outbreak. Authorities are hoping to avoid having to wait the several weeks that required background checks could take.
Required checks involve the enhanced criminal record (CRB) check. This is also often called the disclosure and barring service (DBS) check.
The government is asking care providers to consider staff redeployment. This is due to the risk that workers may become unable to work due to self-isolation and sickness.
Care home providers may pool carers in places where there is most need, in preparation for an outbreak.
Chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute Dr Crystal Oldman stated that the charity was worried about the risks associated with the removal of care worker background checks. Further stating a full risk assessment would be necessary in the interim for such workers.
In regards to redeployment, Dr Oldman added, “It may be possible for larger care home providers to support this approach, but I think it must be recognised that smaller homes will be challenged in many ways to provide the care needed in the event of the anticipated numbers of people (both residents and carers) who will contract the coronavirus.”
Martin Green, chief executive of Care England stated, “The department should be including social care providers in every aspect of planning.”
He added that it was crucial that social care was given the same level of support as the NHS.
He said, “The Department of Health and Social Care should be including social care providers in every aspect of the planning, and anything, such as procurement of drugs, goods, and services that might be required for the NHS should also include social care providers.
“This is an opportunity for the Department of Health and Social Care to show that it’s not only its name that has changed, but its attitude to how it plans and delivers in a crisis.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said that, “The UK is extremely well prepared for these types of outbreaks and Public Health England has issued tailored guidance for care providers in setting out action to be taken in a variety of circumstances.”
In order to prepare for the event of a serious outbreak, the department is working together with others. This includes the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Local Government Association and the Care Provider’s Alliance. They aim to make plans with other care providers and local authorities.
For further information see the Nursing Times.