The government is drawing up legislation that will make it illegal for carers to work in more than one home. The measure is designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, as the UK braces itself for the second wave of the pandemic.
Asymptomatic workers could potentially spread the virus between homes if they were allowed to continue to move freely. Many care homes usually employ bank staff who do shifts in a variety of homes, which will be temporarily banned in a bid to keep residents safe.
They will be required to sign exclusive contracts, allocating them to a single care home. This should help families to feel reassured that any outbreaks of COVID-19 can be more easily controlled as we head into the winter.
Kate Terroni, chief inspector of adult social care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. She said: “I think it's critical to reduce as much as possible staff moving between different homes. So it's essential that people are not doing that.
“We're working with [the] government to think about what our role as the regulator could be in ensuring that happens.”
The move is not entirely new, as in May, the government produced guidelines suggesting agency workers limited themselves to just one care home where possible. The legislation will go one step further to outlaw it all together.
It will present a challenge for care home managers who will still need to ensure they have sufficient staffing levels to look after all of their residents well. Without the flexibility of drafting in colleagues from homes within the same group, things could become tight.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Stopping staff movement in and between care settings is critical to minimise the risk of infection of COVID-19, and our Adult Social Care Winter Plan, backed by an extra £546 million, is clear that providers should limit all staff movement unless absolutely necessary.”
Public Health England estimates that ten per cent of care home staff are agency workers and many of them are employed via zero-hour contracts. Changes will need to come into force that support the new legislation.
Going forward, more is being done to ensure care homes have enough PPE to go around and access to regular testing. This, along with limiting visits and cutting down on the mixing of residents, is designed to prevent any outbreaks of COVID-19 from spreading.