‘Squeaky clean’ delivery plan needed before meaningful care home visits in Sheffield

Sheffield’s director of public health said meaningful care home visits could happen before Christmas but more detailed protocols are needed first.

Tuesday, 8th December 2020, 7:00 am

Greg Fell spoke at a full council meeting following reports the council told care home providers not to use government’s rapid lateral flow testing to enable meaningful contact between residents and visitors over doubts about accuracy.

He said: “I was of the opinion, based on what I heard from the Department of Health last Friday, LFT was being rolled out in care homes with immediate effect – that was before care homes knew what the standard operating protocol was, knew who was being trained to do what, knew how to manage the results, knew what the clinical governance framework was and the risk management framework was like and all of that needs to be in place before we start using tests to reduce the risk of visiting in care homes.

“The reality is it’s probably not the visitors who are the risk, it’s the staff.

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Sheffield's director of Public Health Greg Fell

"Hence why we have been testing staff once a week with PCR that gets sent to a lab which is the gold standard – that’s definitely made a difference in care homes.

“Adding LFT for visitors prior to a care home visit reduces a bit of the risk but is completely secondary to all of the other stuff that needs to be in place like if you’ve got symptoms don’t go anywhere near a care home, wearing PPE, hand hygiene etc.

“Collectively, all of that is what has been adding LFT to visiting in context will make a bit more difference.

“I perhaps overreacted but all of those things have got to be in place before we can start introducing LFT in care homes is my strong advice to the leader of the council.

Councillors at the full council meetings in Sheffield

“The protocols have got to be all squeaky clean before we start implementing these things because they will reduce risk but they don’t remove risk and they come with problems.”

When asked about the timeframe for implementing protocols, he said he expects it ‘ironed out’ within the next few weeks before Christmas.

Dr David Clarke, whose mother lives in a Sheffield care home, said he does not understand why visitors cannot be offered the PCR tests.

"This is what the residents access campaign has been calling for months,” he said.

“Most importantly whatever test is used there are no circumstances in which risk can be reduced to absolute zero.

“We think this is the biggest institutional obstacle we face in respect of many of these rules and regulations.

"Everything we do involves a certain element of risk and one thing we have learned with Covid-19 is it is here to stay, like seasonal flu, and we have to accept there will always be some element of risk even after vaccines are rolled out.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.