On 15 April 2020, the Government issued the “COVID-19: Our Action Plan for Adults Social Care” (“the Plan”). The Plan has been cautiously welcomed by a sector relieved that there is now a plan in place after feeling neglected in its fight against COVID-19.

One of the key highlights of the Plan is that the care sector in England will now have its own brand, “CARE”, sitting alongside the NHS brand. This has been something that the sector has been advocating for some time to ensure proper recognition of the key work that this sector does to care for the most vulnerable. The Government acknowledges that “we must ensure that Social Care gets the recognition and parity of esteem that it deserves” and commits to using its public message “to emphasis the contribution of this group and increase visibility, recognition and appreciation of the sector more widely”.

We set out below an overview of the Plan, linking it to some guidance already issued so that you have this to hand. We will be updating this as and when new guidance is released over coming days.

The Plan

The Plan centres around 4 pillars, and below is a summary of some key points relevant to each pillar:

Pillar 1: Controlling the spread of infection
  • More PPE will be available with a further 23 million items released to designated wholesalers for onward sale to social care providers. 34 million PPE items have been released to Local Resilience Forums to be used for social care and primary care. Current PPE guidance is found here. PHE guidance on working safely in care homes is available here, and a guidance video from PHE on safely putting on and removing PPE for care homes is available here.
  • All symptomatic residents in care homes will now be tested. The latest guidance on who is eligible for testing can be found here.
  • Prior to admission to care homes, all residents will be tested. This will begin with all those being discharged from hospital.
  • The Government’s guidance on admission into Care homes can be found here.
Pillar 2: Supporting the workforce
  • All social care workers and their family members will have access to testing. CQC is leading on the coordination of the testing centres and will contact providers.
  • 20,000 people are to be attracted into social care over the next 3 months. There will be a national recruitment campaign and an online platform developed for online training (with CQC involved in its development).
  • There is a streamlined DBS process (which incidentally providers are saying is working very well). CQC’s interim DBS check guidance can be found here.
  • There is a drive to attract social care workers and occupational therapists, who have over recent years left their respective professional registers, to re-register. Nurses and students are also being redeployed to social care settings from regional hubs.
  • The NHS Volunteer Responders system, which was inundated with 750,000 volunteers, will be widened to enable social care tasks to be carried out. More guidance on volunteering in the social care sector is expected.
Pillar 3: Supporting independence, supporting people at the end of their lives and responding to individual needs
  • Whilst visits by families to loved ones within care homes are currently restricted, visits to see residents at the end of their life should continue. Guidance will be developed to enable visits to be undertaken compassionately and safely.
  • Advance Care Planning must be person specific and this has been reinforced in a joint statement by the BMA, CQC and others - the statement can be found here.
  • The principles of the MCA and DoLS continue to apply during this pandemic and further guidance has been issued which can be accessed here.
Pillar 4: Supporting local authorities and the providers of care.
  • The amendments to the Care Act 2014 (by the Coronavirus Act) to ease the requirements of the Act should help Local Authorities to prioritise the most acute needs. Local Authorities are further expected to work under the Ethical Framework. See the Guidance on Easements and the Ethical Framework here and here.
  • CQC has developed an Emergency Support Framework for this period which offers providers support and advice. It continues to monitor risk and may undertake focused inspection visits or enforcement action if required e.g. if abuse is reported.
  • To ensure that the Government has robust data to be able to respond effectively to the needs in social care, data and intelligence flows will be strengthened by:
    • Use of the “Capacity Tracker” where providers provide daily information about bed capacity, workforce absences, PPE levels and risks in care homes.
    • CQC is developing a tool for home care providers to update daily about the impact of COVID-19 on their service. This is currently being tested.
  • From Friday 10 April 2020, CQC are tracking deaths in social care through requiring providers to use a new Regulation 16 Notification of deaths form. The new form can be found here.
How Capsticks can help

Our national healthcare team is one of the largest in the country, supporting care homes and other health and social providers on a variety of legal topics, including governance and CQC ratings, employment law, property assets, as well as corporate and commercial matters.

We will continue to update this section with any further guidance over the coming days. Should you require any assistance to clarify the above guidance or assistance in general over this difficult time, please contact Sarah Skuse, Siwan Griffiths or any of your contacts at Capsticks to find out how we can help.