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STOCKTON: Surprise at covid care home investigation

STOCKTON: Surprise at covid care home investigation

Cllr Jim Beall (Labour), cabinet member for culture leisure and health at Stockton Council, ward member for Roseworth. Credit: Stockton Council.

A STOCKTON investigation has found no evidence of a link between hospital discharges to borough care homes and covid infections among residents.

Stockton Council reports show there have been at least 170 covid-related care home deaths in the borough since the start of the pandemic.

And there was grave concern about how many residents caught the virus after they were discharged to homes without tests during the early weeks of the pandemic.

But now a probe by the Stockton’s adult social care and health select committee has found no evidence of any correlation between discharge to a care home from hospital and any covid infection of residents.

The review also found no evidence of any link between care home rating and outbreaks in Stockton facilities.

And there was no evidence found of any correlation between a care home’s CQC rating and its covid-19 death rate.

The report added: “It was likely that the high rates of covid-19 in the community impacted upon the number of deaths in a care home (not the actions of a care home itself).”

The Government and Public Health England brought in routine coronavirus testing for hospital patients being discharged to care homes on April 15, 2020.

But before then, guidance on hospital discharges said negative tests were “not required” before transfers or admissions into homes.

Combined figures show a total of 489 patients from both North Tees and South Tees hospitals were discharged to care homes without covid-19 tests between March 1 and April 15.

This prompted fears about how the virus may well have been seeded in care homes for older folk during March and April 2020.

Investigations by the council committee found the average time from discharge to first first infection in a borough home was 49 days.

The report added: “Of the 30 care homes which reported covid cases, six care homes had discharges after their first reported case – therefore the virus must have entered the setting in some other way.

“And 23 did not have a discharge from hospital one week prior to their first reported case.

“As such, almost all covid-19 cases within care homes could not be attributed to hospital discharge.”

Cllr Evaline Cunningham, chairwoman of the committee, told the latest executive scrutiny panel the review had delved into data and pulled out some “surprising statistics”.

She added: “It’s also brought to the attention of the committee the outstanding work in our care homes at this difficult time.”

The review went on to praise the efforts of care homes and council staff during the crisis.

It stated: “What is clear is that the actions of the council and its partners, in co-operation with local care home providers, have contributed to the alleviation of an unparalleled situation not before experienced by the health and care sector.”

Council leaders also shared some surprise at the report’s findings at their latest cabinet meeting.

Cllr Jim Beall, cabinet member for culture, leisure and health, said the review had drawn some “counter-intuitive conclusions” based on the evidence it had seen.

He added: “There have been a few myths around – or people thinking about what they’ve read and heard in various other places.

“But the evidence the committee heard, and came to their conclusions on, is in there.

“I found it quite reassuring that it is highly likely that high rates in the community impacted more on the care homes, than the transfer from hospital and other things.

“That was very illuminating.”

Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter

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