County council in process of choosing care home to house Covid-19 positive patients

One of up to three care homes will be used to house patients discharged from hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Councils like Essex have been asked by the Department of Health and Social Care in recent guidance to have at least one isolation facility by the end of November to support individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus being discharged from hospital.

Essex County Council is currently working with two to three possible sites for urgent mobilisation based on the numbers of people waiting for discharge and its assessment of expected demand. Costs will be reimbursed ultimately through NHS COVID-19 discharge resources, but the council will need to put in place agreements with providers.

It has also received funding to support the clinically extremely vulnerable during the current lockdown period.

Between early March and early July, care homes in Essex recorded around 230 COVID-19 related deaths.

This death toll appears to be leaving many wary about putting their loved ones in a care home, where during the height of the pandemic visitors were not allowed to enter in a bid to protect those residents inside.

It is suspected that many patients were discharged from hospitals into care homes with coronavirus during the first wave of the pandemic.

Until April 16, only those displaying symptoms of COVID were tested before being discharged into a care home.

It means patients without symptoms may have carried coronavirus into homes with vulnerable residents without knowing it.

Elderly people are now tested for coronavirus before being discharged into a home, which appears to be helping keep the virus out . Since the beginning of the second spike there has been an increase in the number of COVID deaths in care homes – but the numbers appear not to be as stark as in the first wave.

In the three weeks up to November 20 there have been 25 deaths – although 12 of those occurred in Colchester and five in Braintree.

Within the first three weeks of COVID being registered as a cause of deaths in care homes there were 67 COVID related deaths.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “Essex County Council is working with Care Provider Partners to develop designated locations, but no sites have been mobilised.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter