Last reviewed 15 September 2020

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has alerted adult social care providers that a rise in confirmed Covid-19 cases across the UK population is being reflected in care homes and has called on care homes to take the action on testing and personal protective equipment (PPE).

A letter from Adult Social Care Delivery Director Stuart Miller was sent to social care providers on 11 September to highlight rising infection rates and to request action on testing and PPE in all care settings. Currently, he said the infections are mainly affecting the workforce. However, he said there was a clear risk that the virus could spread to care home residents or to other parts of the care sector.

Care homes are called on to test all care home staff, including bank and agency staff and those without symptoms, every week to find out who may have coronavirus and stop it before it spreads. Stuart Millar said: "At present, we have no significant backlog and are able to send out test kits within several days of orders being placed. We encourage care homes that have not yet registered for repeat testing to do so."

Care homes are asked to contact their local Health Protection Team (HPT) if a new coronavirus outbreak is suspected, and the HPT will support a public health risk assessment and enable urgent whole home testing. Any member of social care staff who develops symptoms should immediately self-isolate and order a test.

Public Health England (PHE) guidance relating to PPE must also be followed. All care settings should follow the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Illustrated Guide for Community and Social Care Settings; for care homes, Covid-19: How to Work Safely in Care Homes; and for domiciliary care, Covid-19: How to Work Safely in Domiciliary Care in England.

Care home and home care providers can use the PPE Portal to order and receive critical Covid-19 PPE.

The Adult Social Care Winter Plan will set out the support and resources the DHSC will make available nationally, as well as describing the actions for local areas.

This advice comes as some care homes are being told by councils to shut their doors again to visitors, prompted by a rise in coronavirus cases in their areas, just weeks after families were allowed into care homes to visit residents.

Letters seen by ITV News from councils in Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and other areas state family visits must now be cancelled. Care England Chief Executive Martin Green told ITV News: "It is impossible for care homes to know what to do when the Government issues national guidance on visiting, which is then countermanded by local authorities.”

The letter from Stuart Miller is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-infection-rises-letter-to-care-providers-from-director-of-adult-social-care-delivery/covid-19-infection-rises-letter-to-care-providers-from-director-of-adult-social-care-delivery.