About 16,000 people died with coronavirus in English and Welsh care homes between late March and October. It is estimated that excess deaths in retirement communities are as high as 25,500 and almost 90 per cent of these happened between April and May during the height of pandemic.
The spread is thought to have been accelerated by shortages of PPE, visitors and carers bringing it in and residents not being tested before they were discharged from hospital. Any care home resident who is in hospital but well enough to leave will now receive a Covid test.
If it is positive they can be sent to one of the new specialist homes to recover from the virus. If they are well enough and no longer contagious they will then return to their original home.
Kelly O’Neill, director of public health at Hounslow council, said: “This time before being discharged to a care home every individual is being tested for Covid-19.
If patients have tested positive, the NHS in north-west London and the Hounslow have set up a Covid discharge destination. It is important that we all continue to follow the rules to protect each other and the most vulnerable.”
Barking and Dagenham said it has worked with Havering and Redbridge on facilities that can cater for between 20 and 35 care home residents.
“Extra protection has been put in place around these care homes,” Thomas Stansfeld, lead commissioner for older people, said in his report to the council.
“The aim of this programme is to reduce the risk of Covid transmission to the wider care home market.”
Boroughs in south-west London said they are working to set up accommodation and have looked at community hospitals and empty care homes for the sites. Options were presented to councils on October 16.
“All designated accommodation needs to be inspected by the CQC and contracts agreed prior to opening so we will not be in a position to publicise the locations until these steps have been completed,” a spokesman for Kingston council said.
Boroughs have also taken on testing themselves to protect the elderly.
Barking and Dagenham became the first town hall in the capital to launch its own express Covid-19 testing centre last week amid fears the Government programme will not cope with a surge in cases over winter.
Key workers in the borough, including carers, get priority for same day free testing and results.
Council leader Darren Rodwell said delays in people accessing tests and results were causing “significant” problems for care homes and schools because staff had to self-isolate.
“We have a big issue with people still going to work with coronavirus,” he said. “We have to make sure people are doing what is asked of them. Our teachers look after our youngest and they are much safer in school than they are out. Our carers look after our elderly and people in need.”