Public Health England is playing Russian roulette with vulnerable residents

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A York care home operator has accused Public Health England of playing Russian roulette with some of her homes’ most vulnerable residents.

Rachel Beckett, chair of Wellburn, which has three homes in the York area – Grimston Court in York, Rosevale in Wigginton and St Catherine’s in Shipton by Beningbrough – says every care home provider in the UK is now being instructed to re-admit residents who have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms.

She said: “The instruction from Public Health England also goes on to say that, ‘because of the lack of testing available, the readmissions may or may not have COVID-19’.”

She said: “I’m absolutely sure you’d be hard-pressed to find one care home provider in the UK, that feels comfortable with this outrageous and reckless request.

“I have a duty of care to my residents, to their loved ones and my staff. How can I with good conscience admit any patient back into any of our homes, when we have no idea if they have COVID-19 or not?

“Our staff levels are woefully depleted, and the staff we do have left, although remaining resilient and in good spirits, are shattered, overworked and pushed to the limit as is.

“To expect us to comply with these instructions is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with the lives of our most vulnerable, the very people we’re here to keep safe and protect.

“That’s something I’m just not prepared to do. I can’t look my residents, my staff and all of their families and loved ones in the eyes and say we’re doing everything we can to protect each and every one of them, whilst opening up our doors, hoping and praying that a patient isn’t carrying a virus in with them.”

Her comments were echoed by the Alzheimer’s Society, which has called on the Government to provide more testing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for care homes amid concerns that residents with dementia are being abandoned and that social care has “yet again fallen to the bottom of the pile”.

But a spokeswoman for PHE said hospitals around the country needed as many beds as possible to support and treat an increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

“No one wants to unnecessarily spend time in hospital so as soon as a person is well enough, the NHS will discharge a patient so they can complete their recovery at home.”

Dr Nick Phin, deputy director of PHE, said guidance developed for social care and hospital discharge teams jointly by the Department for Health and Social Care, Public Health England, the Care Quality Commission and the NHS advised on the needs of care home residents being discharged from hospital to ensure residents could be cared for safely.

“It details measures to be taken to help minimise any risk of further transmission of COVID-19 to patients and staff within care homes and the same guidance also advises on accessing appropriate testing for these settings,” he said.

(This first appeared in the York Press )

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