More than 230 people discharged to care homes without receiving a test for Covid-19

More than 230 people were discharged to care homes from North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust hospi

More than 230 people were discharged to care homes from North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust hospitals in March and early April without receiving a test for Covid-19. - Credit: Archant

More than 230 people were discharged to care homes from North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust hospitals in March and early April without receiving a test for Covid-19.

Information provided by the trust in response to a Freedom of Information request sent by the Local Democracy Reporting Service shows 273 people were discharged to care homes from the trust’s hospitals between March 1 and April 15.

Of those, the trust said 234 people were not tested, and 39 people were tested for the virus.

Of those 39, eight people tested positive prior to their discharge into a care home.

The national guidance changed on April 15 so from that point on every hospital in the country was instructed to test patients prior to discharging them to care homes.

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The North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust operates Peterborough City Hospital in Peterborough, Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon and Stamford and Rutland Hospital in Stamford.

The chief operating officer for the trust, Graham Wilde, said: “Following government guidance the trust introduced Covid-19 testing for all patients that are being discharged to a care facility on April 15.

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“Prior to this, patients were only tested if they were displaying symptoms of Covid-19. This was in accordance with government guidelines at the time.”

In the case of the eight people who tested positive, the trust said it could not say what the time period was between their tests and discharges into care homes.

The trust also said it could not provide a more detailed breakdown of how many of the 273 people were discharged from each hospital.

The period March 1 to April 15 saw Covid-19 change the entire way of life in the UK. The first recorded death in the UK involving the virus occurred on March 5, with hospital deaths involving the virus rising regularly into the high hundreds per day in the first half of April. The UK went into lockdown on March 23.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has said – also in response to a Freedom of Information request – that 116 people had been discharged from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge to care homes without a test between March 1 and April 15.

The trust said 32 people were tested prior to discharge in that period and all tested negative.

Cambridge University Hospitals also said it was following the national guidelines and testing those with symptoms in that period.

Data from the Care Quality Commission, published by the Office for National Statistics, shows there have been 140 deaths in care homes involving a confirmed or suspected case of the virus in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough local authority areas between April 10 and June 26.

Cambridgeshire County Council told the Local Democracy Reporting Service in early June that it worked with NHS trusts across the county to discharge patients into extra beds procured in care homes to move people out of hospital in March and early April.

The county council said in early June there had been a “general policy of rapid discharge of patients who no longer required hospital care, in order to increase NHS capacity for treating a surge in Covid-19 patients.

“This included discharge into care home settings. Local actions were in line with national guidance, which changed on April 16 to require testing of all patients discharged from hospital into care homes.”

Charlotte Black, the service director for adults and safeguarding at Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, said in early June: “We have always followed national guidelines, and in addition gone over and above these to support those who require support from adult social care and our care providers.

“We have also continued to focus our efforts on enabling people to stay well and independent and access support in their local community. In March, national policy was that testing capacity was prioritised for those patients in hospital with coronavirus symptoms.

“This means many patients would not have received a test before discharge unless they were showing the recognised symptoms at the time.

“All councils were asked to discharge people from hospital in anticipation of the Covid-19 peak, and at the time testing was not widely available in the way it is now.

“But from the start of the year we were working with all our providers to ensure that they were observing general good infection control regimes and had appropriate PPE – and supporting them with emergency supplies if their usual sources ran short.”

According to the government’s Covid-19 action plan published on April 15: “The UK Government with the NHS set out its plans on March 17, 2020, to free up NHS capacity via rapid discharge into the community and reducing planned care.

“We are mindful that some care providers are concerned about being able to effectively isolate Covid-positive residents, and we are determined to make sure discharges into nursing or social care do not put residents currently in those settings at risk.

“We can now confirm we will move to institute a policy of testing all residents prior to admission to care homes.

“This will begin with all those being discharged from hospital and the NHS will have a responsibility for testing these specific patients, in advance of timely discharge.

“Where a test result is still awaited, the patient will be discharged and pending the result, isolated in the same way as a Covid-positive patient will be.”

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