Video report by ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand
Care homes are being asked to accept Covid-positive patients discharged from hospital again, due to the unprecedented pressure that the pandemic is once again placing on the NHS.
ITV News gained exclusive access to one care home in Scarborough, where they have reopened a bespoke Covid ward.
At St Cecilia’s, Covid-positive patients are isolated on a separate floor of the home to other residents. In total, they have room for 15. In recent weeks, they’ve had as many as 12 at any one time.
The home’s clinical lead, Simon Walls, said: "It's difficult because it brings back memories of the first time round...it's horrific.
"It's what our colleagues in the NHS are going through on a day to day basis, so we don't want anyone to feel sorry for us, this is the reality, this is what is happening, this is now."
We filmed as residents coughed and spluttered with the tell-tale signs of Covid-19. Hours before we arrived, one resident passed away with the virus.
St Cecilia’s does not mix staff between its Covid ward and the rest of the home, with strict infection control. But the discharging of Covid-positive patients into care homes has once again raised concerns about the risk of spreading the virus.
In May, ITV News revealed that beds had been block-booked in care homes at the outset of the pandemic to accept Covid positive patients from hospitals. Many of these contracts are still in place. As the NHS faces increasing strain, those beds are now being filled again, with hospitals desperate to free up space.
St Cecilia’s local hospital in Scarborough is already at full capacity. The Medical Director Dr Ed Smith told us it was vital care homes took in patients.
The thousands of deaths which have occurred in care homes have been partly blamed on the failure to test patients discharged from hospital in the early weeks of the pandemic. Relatives’ groups have been alarmed at the decision to discharge patients again, fearing that history will repeat itself.
But many care homes face empty beds and need the income which NHS discharges provide. Taking patients isn’t just about care homes trying to protect the NHS – it is also about safeguarding their own future.