Did the UK Government Really Throw a Protective Ring Around Care Homes in the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Abstract: Journal of Long-Term Care
Authors: Selina Rajan , Adelina Comas-Herrera, Martin Mckee


Context: COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted mortality in English care homes.

Objectives: To examine COVID-19 policies for care homes in England and to describe providers’ experiences of those policies in May and June 2020.

Methods: Mixed methods including policy analysis and an anonymous online survey of English care home providers, recruited using webinars and WhatsApp groups about their experiences of funding, testing, PPE, isolation and staffing until the end of May and early June 2020.

Findings: Although social care policies in England have aligned with those advised by the World Health Organization, they were arguably delayed and were not implemented effectively. Testing had taken place in 70% of care homes surveyed but only 36% of residents had been tested, of whom 16% were positive. Managers were unable to effectively implement isolation policies and reported that workforce and funding support did not always reach them. Guidance changed frequently and was conflicting and could not always be implemented, for example when personal protection equipment was extremely expensive and difficult to source.

Limitations: Although this was not a representative sample, care homes responded from across the country and we report the most consistent themes. Potentially, care homes that found it harder to implement national guidance may have been more inclined to respond to our survey than those who more easily changed practice, although those with outbreaks may also have had less capacity to respond. Some aspects of policy will have also changed since early June.

Implications: Despite policies that were put in place, care homes amongst our survey respondents were still unable to access sufficient funding, testing, PPE, workforce support and practical support to isolate residents by the end of May and early June. Future cross-country policy analyses must examine policy implementation as well as content.

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