An end to free lateral flow tests is causing concern for families of care home residents – who fear it may impact visits.
And a new Covid vaccine booster programme and grants coming to an end are also challenges facing care homes.
Kate Walker, Bedford Borough Council’s director of adults’ services, gave a Covid update to the Adult Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee yesterday (Tuesday, March 29).
She said: “There are concerns by families and relatives that they will not be given free lateral flow tests from April 1.
“Unless this changes in the next couple of days, which could happen because things do happen quite quickly at the last minute, it means that the care home providers can’t just allow people in.
“The guidance is that people must be tested and have proof that they are negative.
“We are watching very carefully what happens this week with any new updates in that regard, and it is a similar circumstance for social workers and other people who may need to visit a care home.
“Care homes have been providing free lateral flow tests because the government has passed that down, but they are now restricted, and they don’t have the capacity to do that after April 1.
“We’re working with providers as to how they can safely manage whilst waiting on [new] government guidance,” she said.
Ms Walker also explained the ‘spring booster’ is for those aged 75 and over and are residents in care homes, and is also for those with weakened immune systems.
“We don’t yet have all of the plans in place for our care homes, but we are working closely with the CCG,” she said.
Cllr James Weir (Conservative, Kempston Rural Ward) said: “The infection control funding was that the £1,000 per bed that was given, or is that something different?”
Ms Walker replied that there was a calculation per bed, which changed over the course of the pandemic, and covered a range of issues.
“It was about staffing, it was about ensuring providers had enough money to recruit agency staff when their own staff needed to self-isolate,” she said.
“It was around the visiting restrictions and planning, it was around equipment and things that would help internally in the home.
“It had a huge range of things and restricting the movement, supporting people to access taxis into work and not to car share, that kind of thing,” she said.
Committee chair, Cllr Roger Rigby (Conservative, Bromham & Biddenham Ward) said: “It does seem to be a lack of finance going forward.
“But in terms of keeping people safe in care homes, testing staff, that sort of money for testing seems that it’s all going to disappear,” he said.
Ms Walker said: “If the guidance doesn’t change, are they still expected to work to that level within the home and restrictions without the additional funds to put the mechanisms in place?
“So we wait on the latest guidance and to see if there are any changes,” she said.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter