Covid-19 and Care: Significant issues remain with testing, Baronsmede Family Homes chief says

Published by Scott Challinor on July 3rd 2020, 6:00am

Baronsmede Family Homes was established in 1985 to provide services for adults with learning disabilities. In late May this year, owner Dee Tormey approached the Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland with concerns over the availability of testing for staff and residents. Little over a month on, as prime minister Boris Johnson announced his ambitious ‘Project Speed’ economic recovery plan, although routine testing for care homes for adults with learning disabilities has now been made available, significant problems remain with the testing system, with Tormey offering her personal perspective of where it has continued to fall short.

Providing an anecdote from her personal experience of the testing system, Tormey said: “One month ago, a member of staff at one of my care homes tested positive for Covid-19 despite being asymptomatic. Another individual in one of the care homes became unwell without having symptoms synonymous with the virus. As a precautionary measure, however, we arranged for her to take a test and I was informed that the results would be returned within 72 hours.

“Needless to say, the results were not returned within this time frame, and I was forced to make a number of enquiries as to when they would be available. Six days after the test had been carried out, we were then told that the sample had been lost.

“In the meantime, the individual concerned was diagnosed with a different health condition following seven days of isolation, which had been a very traumatic experience for her and could have been avoided.”

When speaking in May, Tormey spoke of the fact that testing in care homes for adults with learning disabilities was unavailable. Since then, testing has now been made accessible in this critical corner of the care industry and, rather understandably, Tormey looked to take advantage of the new measure by taking a further four samples from individuals within the care home.

Elaborating on this, Tormey said: “We took four samples from people in the home once testing became routinely available to us. There are only seven people involved in the service, two of which had already been tested. The remaining one we could not test on account of his severe autism.”

However, once the collected samples were sent off, the same issues came to the fore and it has consequently undermined Tormey’s personal confidence in carrying out regular testing measures.

Tormey explained: “We sent these samples off on June 11. To date, we still have not received the results and it has been well over three weeks. We have simply been told that the samples are somewhere in the test system.

“Taking samples from some of the individuals that we support is not an easy process and it is imperative that when we do send samples that we have the results back quickly, in order to take the correct action and follow government guidance for the management of the pandemic in these settings. Because of this experience, I do not have the confidence to carry out regular testing within my services.”

When asked about her thoughts about the prime minister’s plans to level-up the nation and kickstart the economic recovery, Tormey stressed that it is vital that planning departments are brought in line with government plans to rebuild the economy if Boris Johnson’s vision of building for the future and generating job opportunities is to become a reality.

Tormey said: “The prime minister is anxious that businesses are encouraged to build for the future and be able to create more job opportunities as a result. I have a number of development projects in the pipeline which will need to have planning approval and will determine whether I scale up or scale down my own business activities.

“My local planning department has already refused approval on a number of projects in the past including specialist housing, for which there is a distinct need in this area. I have just completed a small development of two units for supported living, but was met with continual opposition from the planning department and forced to use a local planning specialist to support my application and acquire approval, which came at a significant cost.

“Based on my personal experience, it is imperative that planning departments are brought in line with the government plans to build up the economy and to support businesses like mine to be able to create more jobs and much needed services.”

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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
July 3rd 2020, 6:00am

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