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Stepping Hill Hospital discharged patients to care homes without Covid tests despite rule change last spring – Manchester Evening News

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/stepping-hill-hospital-discharged-patients-19616182

Stepping Hill Hospital continued to discharge patients to care homes without testing them for Covid-19 even after it became compulsory in mid-April.

The government has been strongly criticised for ‘recklessly’ allowing patients to be sent to care environments in the early weeks of the pandemic.

But on April 15 last year it announced a policy of ‘testing all residents prior to admission to care homes’.

A new adult social care plan said: “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.”

However, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The Local Democracy Reporting Service and Manchester Evening News has revealed that 37 of the 734 people discharged from Stepping Hill between April 16 and November 18 (the date of the request) were not tested for Covid-19.

It is understood this was near the beginning of this period, before swabbing had been fully implemented at the hospital.

The FOI request also shows that 42 patients discharged to care homes had tested positive for Covid-19 – 28 of whom waited seven days before discharge.

In September The Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed that 391 people had left Stepping Hill for ‘care settings’ between March 1 and April 15 2020.

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust has defended its record on discharges during the pandemic.

A spokesperson said: “We follow national public health guidance on preventing Covid-19 infection, and always work closely with our care home provider partners to ensure patients are discharged appropriately.

“In all cases, patients are only discharged when assessed as medically fit to do so, and any Covid-positive patients are only discharged to care homes who have the appropriate infection prevention facilities to care for them.”

It comes as The Guardian reports that hospital patients are to be discharged early to hotels or their own homes to free up beds for Covid sufferers.

The newspaper also claims to have seen documents which reveal the NHS will start asking care homes to accept Covid patients directly from hospitals without a recent negative test – provided they have been in isolation for 14 days and have shown no new symptoms.

Meanwhile the National Care Forum has warned the care sector is coming under increasing pressure following a ‘snapshot survey’.

Some providers are struggling with staff absences of over 50pc due to staff testing positive for coronavirus, self-isolating after close contact, shielding or struggling with childcare issues.

Vic Rayner, executive director of the NCF, says using overtime and agency staff is ‘not sustainable’ and the situation must be urgently addressed before social care is overwhelmed.

She said: “While the recent focus has been on the pressure being experienced by hospitals and the NHS, this is a red flag that pressure is mounting in the social care sector too.

“We must pay close attention to this as social care is integral to the overall system. If people cannot be supported to leave hospital, whether that is by moving into a care home or having care at home, then the whole system will fail.”