The covid and PPE struggle of our care homes as one home suffers 17 deaths

Care home staff and residents facing the threat of Covid-19

A discussion by county councillors about protective personal equipment needs in Kent has revealed the struggle being faced by care home staff and residents with one Thanet care home suffering a tragic 17 covid-related deaths, according to information shared with members of the authority.

Grosvenor Court in Cliftonville is a 62 bed residential home with staff trained in specialist needs, such as dementia care and learning disability, as well as sensory impairments and Parkinson’s.

The home, in First Avenue, falls in the Cliftonville West ward which has recorded the highest number of Covid-related deaths in Thanet with 13 registered up until April 17, far more than any other Thanet area.

Data for the loss of people to the virus at ward level has not been updated but information from the KCC virtual meeting last Friday, seen by The Isle of Thanet News, showed 17 people from the Cliftonville care home had lost their lives with covid being cited.

In Thanet as a whole there have been 100 covid-related deaths between March 2 and May 1, registered up to May 9, and 38 were in care home settings. Fifty-five were in hospital and two people passed away at home.

Table via ONS

As concern over the plight of staff and residents at care homes across the UK grows, The Health Foundation also highlights how caring for people with dementia – which Grosvenor Court does – can add pressure.

The foundation said: “Outbreaks of infectious disease can be particularly challenging to manage in care homes. Residents may have dementia or other conditions that make isolating them particularly challenging, and infection control outside a hospital setting is difficult.”

Providing PPE

Protective equipment (stock image)

In a message to KCC Grosvenor Court owners Premiere Care Homes said in April ”things were really bad” and “at times we did not know where to turn” but guidance and support from the authority helping to source essential equipment had been beneficial.

KCC has been providing PPE for care homes, homecare providers, GPs and pharmacies with some 1,300 deliveries of 2.4 million items.

Some 276 care homes and 113 homecare providers have received PPE from the county council.

It comes at a cost to the authority, which has not charged for the PPE, with some £337,000 already spent and projections of circa £320,000 per week needed at current demand levels.

Carers on the frontline

Some in Thanet’s care home sector say supplies took too long to filter down to staff.

One carer from the isle said: “The homes I worked in didn’t receive any PPE until six weeks into the pandemic.

“One home is doing OK in terms of getting face masks but is now struggling to get gloves from their suppliers as they are still being directed to the NHS.

“I don’t feel safe, I feel the face masks that care homes have been provided with are inadequate. They are flimsy and quite frankly no different to having a t shirt over your face, they aren’t the 3m masks that the NHS have.

“They are literally just surgical masks that have probably no more than an hour’s life and yet we are expected to wear them for a minimum four hours at a time. They don’t seal on to the face at all.

“I worry after every shift that I might bring it home, it’s got to the point that I don’t want to go to work.”

However, other homes in Thanet have managed to get equipment after taking the decision to use their own funds.

Toni Selfridge, who is a manager alongside colleague Zoe Pitman at Newlyn residential home in Ramsgate, told The Isle of Thanet News: “If the owner hadn’t got the PPE themselves, we wouldn’t have received any.

“We have in the last two weeks been given visors and material masks and we did get one lot of masks at the very beginning.

“I’m 100% happy that we are safe. We were given numbers and an email address if we needed to get any more PPE and we have had so much support from the CCG and CQC.”

Toni said there had been no covid related deaths at the home she woks in and no positive virus diagnosis for any residents or staff.

She added: “I implemented infection control procedures. Staff come to work in civvies and then get their work clothes on when they get there. We have our temperature taken and anything over 38 means the person has to go home.”

One resident whose parents run accommodation for adults with learning disabilities said they had received no support to help keep people safe.

They said: “They have not had any support for the residents or themselves and no one provided them with PPE – they had to buy their own. It took four weeks for the PPE to arrive and the prices have sky rocketed.”

‘Stunned’

Karen Constantine 

County councillor Karen Constantine, who sits on the authority’s health scrutiny panel, said: “I was stunned by the information which showed 17 deaths in an elderly care home in Thanet. The Guardian newspaper has described this poignantly as ‘kettled’ and certainly it’s true that the elderly in homes have zero choice about where they stay during this time.

“We know that this home is Grosvenor Court in Cliftonville and our thoughts are with the families and friends as they deal with their loss. I have to emphasise how hard staff are working there and that this isn’t their fault – they should not be blamed in any way.

“But the situation begs a vital and fundamental question about our elderly, shouldn’t they be completely safe? What about the staff and families of those connected to the home, have they now been tested for the virus? “

Councillor Constantine says she has asked county council leader Roger Gough a number of questions about Grosvenor Court, including what measures are now in place to both protect and reassure remaining residents and staff following such a traumatic experience.

She added: “I would like to know what financial support can be afforded to this home and others in similar circumstances, as such a terrible loss of life will undoubtedly have a severe detrimental financial impact too.

“We must do all we can as a county council to keep our businesses ‘standing up’ so that our residents are safe and cared for and the Government must be forced to underwrite the cost.”

A spokesperson for Premiere Care Homes said they were not currently in a position to comment, adding: “Our main focus at this present time is our care homes, our residents and our staff.”

National situation

Nationally, data from the Office for National Statistics shows the crisis is countrywide with 12,526 care home residents dying with covid cited or suspected between March 2 and May 1, registered up to May 9. Of these 8,312 deaths were in care homes with 4,214 residents dying in other settings such as hospitals.

Of the 12,526 deaths,11,371 were classified as “confirmed” COVID-19 and 1,155 were classified as “suspected” COVID-19.

Dementia and Alzheimer disease was the most common main pre-existing condition found among care home resident deaths involving COVID-19.

Government fund for care homes

Yesterday (May 15) the government announced a new £600 million Infection Control Fund to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in care homes, in addition to £3.2 billion of financial support made available to local authorities to support key public services since the start of the crisis.

The fund, which is ringfenced for social care, will be given to local authorities to ensure care homes can continue to halt the spread of coronavirus by helping them cover the costs of implementing measures to reduce transmission.

Care homes will be asked to restrict permanent and agency staff to working in only one care home wherever possible. The funding could be used to meet the additional costs of restricting staff to work in one care home and pay the wages of those self-isolating.

The money will be paid in two equal instalments to local authorities and sums are allocated according to the number of care home beds in each area.

For Kent, which has 14,579 registered care beds, the cash award is £18,877,765.

During yesterday’s briefing Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, said two-thirds of care homes in England had not had any covid outbreak and that following the peak the number of new cases has now halved.

Further measures announced yesterday were:

  • all local authorities must conduct a daily review of care homes in their area to ensure care homes have the support they need with staffing, help with accessing PPE and other areas of operation
  • the NHS will ensure that each care home has a named clinical contact to provide better access to clinical advice through weekly check-ins to review their patients, and offer direct support for staff with use of equipment and medication
  • a wellbeing package for social care staff is also being rolled out  on the new CARE app including 2 new helplines, led by the Samaritans and Hospice UK. This will help support care staff with their mental health and wellbeing and support those who have experienced a traumatic death as part of their work or help with anxiety and stress

ONS data shows people working in social care, a group including care workers and home carers, both had significantly raised rates of death involving COVID-19, with 131 deaths recorded up until April 20. This figure will have likely increased since that data was released.

new online portal that makes it easy for care homes to arrange deliveries of coronavirus test kits was also launched on May 4.

All care home staff and residents in England are now eligible for testing and this will be prioritised for care homes that look after the over 65s.

30 Comments

  1. i understand that some care homes are run by kcc and local authorities but many are run by money-grabbing soulless people who main aim is too make as much money as possible and pay staff as little as possible, these care homes should be made to pay for protective equipment and not the tax payer

    • Looks like you are correct in what you say Mr Wright. Unfortunately the owner of that care home a Mr Shaun Cole did purchase a nice bottle of Prosecco to all his hard workers but unfortunately forgot to mention that he cut his staff wages and making redundancies but says he and his team are now ready for the next coronvavirus outbreak to follow. He won’t have any staff left by then as also stopped time and a half for Bank Holidays and no Redundancy payment for his hard working employees doing such a difficult job.

  2. Excellent story Kathy. This crisis has been unfolding since January. The negligence shown by this Government, even pre Covid-19, is unforgiveable. Equally the lack of transparency of the extent of the crisis for residents and those cared for in their own homes must change. On a human rights level no meaningful provision has been made for the next of kin, PoA’s, and families. To have underfunded and privatised this sector is akin to throwing your granny under a bus. The British have nothing to be proud of here!

  3. Ken Wraight, many of the care homes are full of local authority clients – they are our family members. It is clear that privatisation hasn’t worked for the residents in many provisions. It is the Government’s responsibility to protect its citizens to the best of its ability in a pandemic. You aren’t the only one with tunnel vision supporting the destruction of the welfare state by not wanting to waste taxpayers money on private industry, but not only is it mistaken, but people with this attitude are also prepared to condemn the vulnerable to death in a crisis such as this. Do you really mean to be this thoughtless and heartless?

    • I am not disputing that there are failures in the care system but there is no need to resort to such language.

      • Sandra, the comment that is no longer there has nothing to do with a criticism of the care industry but an attitude where aspects of taxation are deemed more important than lives. An analogy with those turning a blind eye, not prepared to speak up during WW2 against the assault on the elderly, vulnerable et al is not ‘such language’ as you put it but is the consequence of human incompetence, un-critical belief and collective indifference.

        • I think you are using very emotive language and playing politics with an unprecedented situation. I don’t think it’s helpful to use this promote your own views on taxation, privatisation, etc.
          Yes, there will be a lot to learn from this and I’m sure there will be an independent inquiry.

      • Ken, there are still many local authority clients in the private provision. A small contribution relative to taxpayers money being thrown to big business in the form of furloughing and other bail outs.

  4. Such a shame so many have died so far at the Grosvenor Court in First avenue. The message being put out there is lack of PPE but then another home commented by Toni stating they have had no deaths but found getting hold of PPE had become more expensive. Do we put money over lives, no we shouldn’t at all but then who is allowing such profiteering on PPE items at this time of covid-19 pandemic? Why has the Government not clamped down on it and fined those companies taking advantage during a national emergency? People need to name a shame them to the authorities and then they should be brought to some justice. Pay back the blood money you bunch of crooks as you are causing deaths and suffering by charging inflated prices by however many times you have increased your profits through it. Give the money to the NHS and Care homes that you have ripped off!

  5. Care homes should have been shielded from day1 like hospitals. Agency workers were still allowed to flit from one home to another. People returning from hospitals not tested. Ppe not available, and unbelievably care home patients who developed virus were not transferred to hospital intensive clinical units in hospital to have access to ventilations to give them a chance to survive. We need public inquiry to find out why this happened

    • Dr Betts can you please elaborate on “Govt cover up” sounds like a real anti Govt leftist comment with no evidence?

      • Criticizing the government is not confined to “anti-Govt leftists”. Roger Gale’s recent comments show this.

    • Great bit of hindsight, now try a bit of foesight, how about sorting the mess that is Margate, create pedestran areas, ie high st and cecil square, one way traffic systom etc. Demolish some of the more disgusting areas. Enncourage people to live a cleaner fitter life. Help Margate Football Club who keep hundreds of kids off the streets.one final gripe do something with Hoders corner. Thereis more of Margate than the harbour.

  6. Mr Lewis if you have any actual evidence that people in care homes were left gasping for breath and in need of ventilation and in a state of suffering and denied hospital treatment , that you have implied has resulted in their death then you must report this with your evidence immediately to the police and Kent social services.

  7. Well done Kathy for your accurate reporting. I agree with County Councillor Barry Lewis that we need a PUBLIC INQUIRY into the Covid-19 issues exposing incompetence, Gov. cover up.So sad when those bereaved have further grief caused by the exposure of these issues MUST BE HELD.Incidentally since 6/19 I’ve worked (free) with the PUBLIC INQUIRY on-going, delayed by C19, into the N.H.S./English blood service & HMG Cover up, with Sir Brian + the Haemophilia Society staff & members+bereaved families on INFECTED BLOOD PUBLIC INQUIRY taken years.

  8. Devils advocate… a third of coronavirus deaths have been recorded IN care homes, so these details are public knowledge and by definition known to the appropriate authorities.

  9. Mr Lewis – The fact that people have died in care homes from civic 19 is not in dispute it is your statement made in your name as a councillor that requires you to surely provide such evidence to the authorities. What you are alluring to is clinical neglect and possibly corporate manslaughter being brought against the management / owners of the care homes in that they as you intimate did not contact the hospital or direct their residents to go to hospital even though they knew they needed hospital care . Quoted by Mr Lewis …. unbelievably care home patients who developed virus were not transferred to hospital intensive clinical units in hospital to have access to ventilations to give them a chance to survive.

    • The devil s advocate, i do not why care homes deaths are so high, whose decision not to transfer into hospital, that is why we need a public inquiry. If you have the answer please enlighten us.,

  10. The virus is extremely infectious, and is passed via coughing, sneezing, blowing ones nose, and even when talking according to the ‘I’ Newspaper of the 15/5/20! It says thousands of droplets a second can linger for up to 14 minutes, and may contain traces of coronavirus. The present method of testing people who have been treated for covid-19 is not 100% accurate, even Donald Trump and his closet staff who are tested daily, have NOT had an accurate test taken, according CNN news! Its a matter of public record, patients who have been treated for the virus, are being transferred to Care homes, who may still be infectious, because they have not been tested 100% free of the virus! Efficient test kits, and some are far from that, are still not available, why? This government has acted in a muddled and shambolic way, by cutting the NHS to the bone over the last 10 years, including not providing PPE, and test kits!

    The virus is transmitted by body fluids, minute particles of which are produced when someone sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose. The virus can last upwards of 3 days on a hard surface, like a shopping trolley or basket handle. If someone has the virus unknowingly, and enters a store using a trolley, or basket, then coughs into their hand, as most people do, they will then transfer the virus onto the trolley, basket handles! Its vital people sanitise their hands AFTER they have used a shopping trolley, or basket! Sanitising the hands of customers BEFORE as they enter the store achieves nothing, and is totally futile as someone could have infected their shopping trolley, or basket handles before hand!

    • Quite right.
      In our household we’re really keen on hand hygiene. We take a sanitizing gel with us, and use it after each shop we visit. We pay by contactless. We wash our hands the moment we get in, and anything we’ve used outside (like keys) go in a bowl of warm water and bleach.
      I get fed up seeing people handling stuff in supermarkets then putting it back on the shelves.

  11. Mr Lewis – it is not me that has the answer but you have made the statement .. unbelievably care home patients who developed virus were not transferred to hospital intensive clinical units in hospital to have access to ventilations to give them a chance to survive. You have made this statement but why – you must have been told by someone in the know otherwise why state it ? Trying to deflect your inability to respond to the request to report your knowledge in your statement statement is quite telling. I would have expected a more measured and researched posting of messages and statements posted on a public news site. If you cannot respond then consider doing the responsible thing as a councillor and retract your statement in question that has been specifically highlighted .

    The statement you made is . unbelievably care home patients who developed virus were not transferred to hospital intensive clinical units in hospital to have access to ventilations to give them a chance to survive.

  12. I repeat i want answers and not pointing my finger at anyone; also i am answerable to my electorate not a nameless critic whoever you are.

  13. Ok Mr Lewis

    I will send a request to the council chambers or standards committee if that’s how it’s done to request you to make a public statement on your message posted here as you have made a very serious allegation that you are aware it seems that people who have died in care homes have been denied access to hospital when they needed intensive care and ventilation . I am also one of your electorate and also personally connected to a family who lost a loved one in a Thanet care home two weeks ago and will extremely upset to know your statement of what might have impacted on their parents death.
    Ps Calling out someone as a critic for raising your irresponsible and probably unsubstantiated allegations – mmm very democratic behaviour !!!

  14. Inferring that in merely making a public domain statement of fact – residents who died in care homes of covid-19, weren’t admitted to ICUs – is in any way inappropriate, isn’t justified. Threatening & denigrating a highly conscientious, sincere & dedicated public servant, serves no positive purpose & makes no sense. The public inquiry’s remit will patently include answering precisely why residents weren’t afforded ICU treatment, so whatever failing, which resulted in over 10,000 covid-19 deaths in UK care homes, will be revealed & any legal action, against institutions/organisations, companies &/or the government, warranted by the inquiry’s evidence, is taken.

  15. In 2019 Premier Care Homes paid out £153,846 of dividends to its two shareholders. It had net assets of £5,270,603 and £976,706 cash in hand. So how and why did it have a problem with buying PPE to protect staff and residents so late on. This is just another example of care home owners not giving a damn when they’ve got the money and could have acquired PPE directly instead of waiting for KCC supplies.

    • IF THIS IS TRUE WHY HAVE THEY MADE 3 MEMBERS OF STAFF REDUNDANT ON THE GROUNDS THAT THEY HAVE NO MONEY TO PAY FOR THEIR WAGES EVEN AFTER CUTTING STAFF HOURS BY HALF BECAUSE THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO KEEP THEIR STAFF DUE TO FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES AT THE MOMENT. FURTHER REDUNDANCY NOTICES TO FOLLOW IN THE COMING MONTHS. VERY STRANGE INDEED FOR A CARE HOME TO JUST GET RID OF THERE HARD WORKING STAFF WHO HAVE STOOD BY THEM OVER THESE DIFFICULT TIMES AND WATCHED SO MANY RESIDENTS DIE FROM THIS DEADLY DISEASE. SURELY A PRIVATE CARE HOME COMPANY WOULDN’T LIE TO THERE STAFF SAYING THAT THERE MUST BE REDUNDANCY NOTICES GIVEN TO THEIR EMPLOYEES DUE TO NO MONEY AVAILABLE. MAYBE THIS NEEDS LOOKING INTO AS SOMETHING IS GOING ON. MONEY OVER PEOPLE AND PROFITS FOR THE SHAREHOLDERS MAYBE A PUBLIC ENQUIRY WILL GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS. WHO KNOWS MAYBE NOT.WE WILL JUST HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS OVER THE MONTHS AND YEAR’S TO COME. ALL THAT I CAN SAY IS THAT MY HEART GOES OUT TO ALL THOSE FAMILY’S WHO HAVE LOST LOVE ONE’S TO THE HORRIBLE VIRUS.

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