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DHSC opts for guidance not legislation on the movement of care home staff

The DHSC has opted to update guidance on restricting staff movement between care settings, rather than the proposed ban on movement – despite blaming movement of staff for COVID-19 infections in care homes yesterday.

Following consultation, updated guidance makes clear that staff movement should only take place in limited exceptional circumstances to ensure the delivery of safe care.

New guidance provides examples of how to mitigate the risks of this with frequent testing.

In the consultation, respondents called for an increase in staffing capacity instead of regulation to achieve the goal of reducing staff movement except in exceptional circumstances. DHSC says that £120 million has been allocated to a Workforce Capacity Fund for local authorities to use to boost staffing levels.

Funding should support paying overtime or for childcare costs.

Analysing the consultation responses, DHSC says that the majority of respondents (56 per cent) believed that the proposed requirement had the potential to reduce staff movement, although around half of the respondents who expressed this (29 per of all respondents) had concerns about the proposal..

These included:

  • confusion about the scope of the regulations and which staff and/or locations it would cover
  • the impact it could have on staffing levels and the impact on the provision of care to residents
  • the cost of implementing the proposed regulation

Four in five respondents detailed concerns about the impact of restrictions on safe staffing levels and the compounding effect of the proposed regulation on existing staff vacancies and absences.

Many respondents flagged the potential for other methods of managing movement, notably through infection prevention and control (IPC) best practice.

Commenting, acting RCN England Director Patricia Marquis said: “The Government’s climbdown is the right decision. We warned last year that this move would have a significant negative effect on social care staff who may have felt they were being scapegoated for spreading COVID-19 when in fact they are integral to safe and effective care measures to stop cross infection.

“There is a workforce crisis in social care and a ban would have compounded an already-difficult situation. A ban would have undermined safe, person-centred care and punished unfairly diligent care home workers.

“The government urgently needs to come up with a long-term plan for the health and social care workforce.”

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