'No excuses' for Essex care home deaths, say union bosses
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There are “no excuses” for an acute increase in the number of deaths seen in care homes in Essex over the past week, trade union UNISON has said.
Essex saw the second highest death toll in care homes last week – surpassed by Norfolk just by one.
The increase is from 88 over the week to January 22 to 102 to the week ending January 29 – an increase in deaths of 16%, also one of the highest in England.
Responding to the latest Office for National Statistics figures, UNISON Eastern head of social care Caroline Hennessy said: “Nearly a year into this pandemic there are no excuses for the rising death tolls in Essex’s care homes.
“Behind these grim statistics are hundreds more mourning friends and relatives they haven’t been allowed to see since last March.
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“Care providers must take their share of the blame for these tragedies.
“Essex County Council (ECC) must ensure the infection control fund is used properly to make sure care staff can help stop the spread of Covid.”
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Councillor John Spence, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said the comments were “disappointing”.
He said: “The last year has been extremely challenging for our care providers and their employees, who are working tirelessly to keep many of the county’s most vulnerable people safe.
“This is a difficult, challenging and ever changing situation for care providers and it is therefore disappointing to see comments condemning those supporting our most vulnerable, rather than supporting them.
“It is a sad fact that the new variant has proved particularly infectious. Levels of infections in the community reached heights not previously seen during the Covid-19 crisis and it was bound to be the case that members of staff and others entering care homes would bring the infection with them.
“Once in the homes it was almost impossible for providers and staff to isolate residents.
“One death due to Covid-19 is one too many, however, it is important to recognise that Essex is the second largest authority in the country and has an older population than average, which needs to be taken into consideration when comparing figures.
“We have provided a range of support to the care market throughout the pandemic, including funding to help support infection control in care homes, and a range of additional financial support to meet the costs related to Covid-19.
“It is up to each individual provider to decide how the money we allocate to them is used, within the guidance and conditions we have set. These conditions are clear that the funding can be used for supporting people who are self-isolating to be paid at full pay.
“There are also a range of other uses for the funding. We do not have the powers to mandate on a case-by-case basis how providers use this.
“We will continue to work with providers, UNISON and partners to ensure all residents in our care homes are safe, healthy and happy.”
Essex has seen 676 deaths from Covid-19 in care homes since the start of the pandemic.