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This week, Public Health England released updated guidance on supported living provision during the coronavirus outbreak. The guidance is aimed at local authorities, CCGs, community health services and domiciliary care providers.

What steps can supported living providers take to maintain delivery of care?

The guidance sets out a range of actions that supported living providers are advised to undertake in order to effectively maintain delivery of care to clients. These include:

  • Review lists of clients and the support they receive, including informal support. This will ensure that providers can share this information if a legitimate request is made.
  • Providers are encouraged to work alongside their local authority to identify clients who are self-funders and help them determine informal support that is available.
  • All care plans commissioned by the local authority should be mapped, to inform planning during an outbreak of COVID-19.
  • Work alongside local authorities to establish planning for mutual aid which would include sharing workload between providers. This may involve volunteers, where this is safe and appropriate.
  • Providers should familiarise themselves with the arrangements that their local authority, CCG and NHS 111 are putting into place to refer vulnerable people to volunteers to ensure practical and emotional support can be provided.

What to do if a supported living care worker is concerned they may have COVID-19

The guidance on this scenario is the same for all individuals and workers across all sectors. If someone is displaying symptoms of COVID-19, they are advised to follow the NHS advice. This is to self-isolate at home and follow the “COVID-19: stay at home guidance”.

PPE: What do supported living providers need to know?

When a client is not displaying symptoms of COVID-19, no PPE is required but normal good hygiene practices should be followed.

Where a client is displaying symptoms of COVID-19, supported living healthcare workers should use PPE for activities where they are in close personal contact with the individual. Personal contact includes things like washing and personal hygiene.

In respect of the type of PPE to be used, Public Health England advises that aprons, gloves and fluid repellent surgical masks should be used whilst delivering care. New PPE should be worn on each new care visit to clients. The used PPE must be disposed of in a disposable rubbish bag. This waste should be kept separate from other waste for at least 72 hours before being put in the usual household waste bin for disposal.

Cleaning and laundry where a client has COVID-19 symptoms

If a supported living provider normally provides cleaning and/or laundry duties for a client, usual household products should be used for cleaning. During this time, increased cleaning may be included to a client’s care delivery package to reduce the risk of retention of the virus on surfaces around the client’s property anyway, but this is especially important if the client is presenting with symptoms of COVID-19.

Cleaning should be undertaken on high touch areas, i.e. worktops, door handles, light switches and any other frequently touched surface. Disposable waste should always be stored securely within disposable rubbish bags.

When undertaking laundry tasks, healthcare workers should not shake dirty washing before washing. Dirty laundry belonging to someone who has had symptoms or COVID-19 can be done with other people’s washing in the same household.

Do “household isolation” principles apply in a supported living setting?

The guidance recognises that supported living settings and the numbers of people living together vary and providers will therefore need to make decisions of a ‘case-by-case’ basis. In scenarios where supported living is provided to a client who is in a shared environment with communal areas and is displaying COVID-19 symptoms, the principles of household isolation may apply Consideration should be given to underlying health conditions of residents and their vulnerability. The needs of all individuals in the household must be considered when dealing with isolation.

Further guidance in respect of vulnerable groups and self-isolation has been published by Public Health England and is available here.

What support is the government arranging for supported living providers?

The government is seeking to provide extra support to assist supported living providers with the COVID-19 outbreak. As part of this support, a response fund has been set up. This fund will assist local authorities to manage pressures on social care. Initial guidance for local authorities on the provision of financial support to care providers during the pandemic can be found here.

Our specialist healthcare lawyers are here to support you through these challenges. Contact us to discuss how we can help you, email or call 01202 786187.