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Hundreds of Staffordshire hospital patients discharged to care homes without being tested for Covid-19

By Kerry Ashdown | Staffordshire | Coronavirus | Published:

Hundreds of hospital patients were not tested for Covid-19 before being discharged to care homes in Staffordshire in the weeks before checks became routine.

Hundreds of people were sent home from hospital and into care homes without being tested for coronavirus

The Government and Public Health England brought in routine coronavirus testing of hospital patients being discharged to care homes on April 15.

But a Freedom of Information request made to University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust, which runs Royal Stoke and Stafford’s County Hospital, has revealed that between March 1 and April 15 just 165 patients were tested for Covid-19 before being discharged to care homes.

This was less than a quarter of the 694 patients discharged to care homes during those 41 days.

Of those 165 patients tested 54 were found to have coronavirus, while 111 tests proved negative.

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Some of these patients will have been tested on admission – or throughout their care pathway as appropriate – the trust has said however.

Latest figures have shown there were 182 confirmed deaths in Staffordshire care homes involving Covid-19 between April 10 and May 29. In Stoke-on-Trent there were 41.

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At Stafford’s Limewood Nursing and Residential Home 10 residents died in the space of four weeks after testing positive for coronavirus.

It was previously reported that the first resident died after returning to the home from County Hospital, following treatment for a non-coronavirus issue. In total three residents tested positive for coronavirus at the home after returning from hospital.

County councillors have called for assurance that patients were now being tested for Covid-19 before being discharged to care homes.

Councillor Charlotte Atkins told health bosses at Thursday’s Staffordshire County Council meeting: “I want absolute assurance that everyone that is discharged from hospital to a care home is tested – not should be tested – because the issue is that early on in the process, we know from the national picture, that many people weren’t tested, went into care homes and that sparked off many infections in care homes.”

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UHNM’s chief executive Tracy Bullock responded: “Since the national guidance came out we have tested every single patient prior to discharge.

“If those patients are positive in some instances we have delayed that discharge if it is safer to keep that patient with us than to discharge. We haven’t been in any rush to discharge patients out of the hospital – in fact quite the opposite.”

The trust has said that patients’ notes would have included their Covid-19 test results and details of whether or not they had the virus would also be available in the discharge summary of the patient.

Health campaigner Ian Syme said he was astonished at the number of patients discharged to care homes without being tested for Covid-19 before April 15.

He added: “I knew people were being sent into care homes without tests but even this figure astonishes me. There was a shortage of testing capacity and reagent but 529 people weren’t even tested.

“I’m not pointing the finger at UHNM – there is no doubt in my mind central Government didn’t move swiftly enough. NHS England took their eye off care homes and it shows how desperate they were because of what was going to come through the hospital doors quite rapidly.

“Central Government has put individuals in peril but people should have been discharged to a place of safety.”

Kerry Ashdown

By Kerry Ashdown

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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