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Seven more care homes report suspected coronavirus outbreaks

PUBLISHED: 12:03 15 May 2020 | UPDATED: 15:10 15 May 2020

Patricia Hewitt, former health minister. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Patricia Hewitt, former health minister. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A former health secretary has said care home residents have paid a “huge price” following the emptying of acute hospital beds in March.

The comments by Patricia Hewitt, chair of Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) were made as data from Public Health England revealed there had been an increase of outbreaks of suspected or confirmed coronavirus in seven care homes across Norfolk in the first week of May.

Ms Hewitt said hospitals had sped up discharges to social care settings in March due to instructions from national NHS leaders.

Speaking on a webinar on health and social care on Thursday, she said: “Emptying acute beds, which was essential…came at a high price and it was paid by those patients in social care or transferred to social care who already had covid-19 or [subsequently] got it.

“Nobody can remember a time when acute beds were as empty [as currently]...it is quite an extraordinary situation. But it was at a huge price paid, there will be all kinds of questions to come...once we are past the crisis phase.”

When discussing the initial public health messages sent out by the government, Ms Hewitt added: “Where was social care? It was obviously not in that first message.”

MORE: Fears care home residents are serving ‘prison sentences’ in social isolation

She stressed that when decisions to rapidly discharge patients from hospital were being made in March, Italian hospitals were so overwhelmed with covid-19 cases they were refusing intensive care beds to some patients.

She added: “All that reinforced in the minds of people in the centre that we have got to protect the NHS and got to make sure our hospitals are ready and able. That was where all the focus was and social care was just not in the picture”.

Ms Hewitt, a Labour health secretary between 2007 and 2009, said there was now an “opportunity” for the country to create a “new settlement” for social care now that it has become “visible to the public”.

“The policy analysis is all there, what we need is political leadership which will build broad public support and cross-party support as we need a settlement that will last and not become a political football,” Ms Hewitt added.

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Norfolk care home coronavirus outbreak increase

Care homes in the Great Yarmouth area experienced the highest increase in suspected and confirmed coronavirus outbreaks over the first week of May, according to Public Health England figures.

According to the statistics, between the weeks commencing March 9 and May 4 there were reports of Covid-19 outbreaks across 94 care homes in Breckland, Broadland, Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, North Norfolk, Norwich and South Norfolk.

During the week commencing May 4 there were seven reports of outbreaks in care homes across four separate areas of the county.

In Breckland and King’s Lynn and West Norfolk there was one care home outbreak in each authority, in Broadland there were reports of outbreaks in two homes, and three care homes were affected in the Yarmouth area.

The figures equates to 27pc of the area’s care homes reporting a suspected or confirmed outbreak.


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