Healthcare sector ‘on its knees’ as infection control funding ends
The withdrawal of the infection control and testing fund, a financial “lifeline” for healthcare providers during the pandemic, has raised fears it could drive a wave of healthcare providers out of business.
The fund, which has provided £1.35billion for adult social care since May 2020 and £288million for testing, will not continue from this month.
One of its aims was to help providers pay healthcare workers when sick or forced to self-isolate as close to full pay as possible, as workers only become eligible for statutory sick pay. after three days.
It has also allowed care homes to minimize travel between homes by increasing staff numbers.
Despite the relaxation of Covid rules in other areas of public life, updated government guidance says healthcare staff should still take time off work if they test positive or have key symptoms.
The withdrawal of the fund, at a time when some providers are reporting that up to 30% of their workforce is on sick leave and Covid rates are still high, has raised concerns about the cost of paying the caregivers to stay home will tip some care providers over a financial cliff edge.
Independent Care Group (ICG) Chairman Mike Padgham told Care Home Professional that “the pandemic, slow occupancy and growing cost of living crisis have left the sector on its knees. Now the fund set up to help us deal with the Covid-19 pandemic is ending and nothing is being put in its place.
Mr Padgam said care homes continued to face financial hardship due to the 10-day blocking of admissions when a home suffers a Covid outbreak.
“If we are going to reopen and ease the restrictions, with all the risks that will entail, we need to have some support or more and more providers are going to go to the wall,” he said.
Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said the fund has “represented a vital lifeline for many care providers” and that its discontinuation “will present challenges for providers, particularly in the context of new health care requirements. testing and isolation”.
He stressed that while the latest clinical and scientific advice on public health and safety is evolving, “many demands placed on the adult social care sector remain in place while many issues exacerbated by Covid-19 and central policies will continue to persist in the future”.
Homecare Association chief executive Dr Jane Towson said her organization is hearing about providers who currently have up to 30 per cent of their workforce on sick leave and are therefore “unable to provide care elderly and disabled people in the community”.
She said: “The lack of funding available for infection control risks carers not being able to afford self-isolation when Covid-19 tests positive, especially as the cost of living rises.
“Most local authority rates for home care are insufficient to cover the normal costs of providing home care, let alone the additional costs due to Covid-19.”
Unison’s social care manager Gavin Edwards has claimed it is ‘negligent and morally wrong’ for the Government to cut sick pay support in care, ‘just like the devastating cost of living crisis s ‘intensifies and Covid rates rise’.
Healthcare providers are also being hit by the withdrawal of the National Discharge Fund, which had provided nearly £3billion over two years to fund care for people who were well enough to be discharged from hospital but still needed care.
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: ‘Ensuring care providers and councils have the staff and capacity to manage hospital discharges is essential to ensure people receive the right care at the right time and to free up time and space for the NHS. With less funding, this becomes increasingly difficult to achieve.