Assurance for Adult Social Care in Highland welcomed

Members of Highland Council’s Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee have welcomed the assurance provided for Adult Social Care in the region by the Council and NHS Highland during a virtual meeting today (8 July 2020).

Committee Chair Cllr Linda Munro said: “Members have welcomed and approved this report as we care passionately about the delivery of adult social care in Highland and we are assured that Highland Council and NHS Highland working side by side together can deliver the best outcomes for our communities across the region.”

A report from Highland Council’s Interim Head of Integration Adult Social Care, Fiona Malcolm outlined the legal requirements of the partnership agreement for adult social care services since 2012 between The Highland Council and NHS Highland and the current process of assurance for service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Highland, 67 care homes provide 2,049 social care beds which are managed in 14 care homes by NHS Highland and 53 within the independent sector.

The report explained that since March, this year, an ‘Action Plan for COVID-19 Adult Social Care’ has been in place with a ‘Care Home Support Plan’ added which have been delivered by a command structure of officer groups. These groups address 3 key areas of staffing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 status in the region on a daily basis.  The testing programme is also considered.

Issues regarding the availability of PPE have largely been resolved. Guidance has been provided to the social care sector regarding changes made by the Scottish Government in terms of the process of supply for PPE. NHS Highland also made necessary arrangements to ensure that PPE is available where required. A distribution hub was created at Dalcross and operated by the British Red Cross to make PPE available to the social care sector which has been working well.

Potential staffing issues for providers of care services due to the pandemic were addressed by the creation of a Resilience Hub which carries out a daily phone-round of care providers to identify any gaps or issues in the independent care sector and to support them through NHS Highland staff banks. Escalation Support Teams were also set up to support care homes, with nursing, social care and housekeeping staff – one of which teams was deployed at Home Farm, Portree.

Assistance to care homes regarding the Covid-19 status of residents is also provided from the Public Health Protection team in terms of testing and infection control advice. Members were informed that since 18 May all care home staff are subject to Covid-19 testing; with a 48 hour turn around for testing kits used in areas where testing centres are not available.

A ‘Care Home Escalation Plan’ has been developed to provide support for care homes where required.  New legislation by the Scottish Government during lockdown has given health boards and local authorities new powers to ‘step-in’ if required to support the delivery of care in care homes.

Guidance has also been introduced to enable Learning Disability Services provide support where required to enable service users – many on self-directed support – to continue to be able to access the support that they need.

NHS Highland’s Chief Officer, David Park provided Members with an overview of COVID-19 and hospital cases; how plans for recovery and testing were progressing; and the care homes situation in the region.

Summarising on the COVID response he said: “Measures that have been put in place nationally and locally since isolation have been very effective. Hospital capacity has dealt with the demand in Highland and a strong and clear governance process is in place for care homes. While a second wave is likely (and we do anticipate there to be further outbreaks) these are expected to be extremely localised in the region. However, it is important to follow public health guidance in relation to physical distancing and infection control to ensure that the effects of any second wave are minimised.”

8 Jul 2020