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Infection Control Fund extension ‘too little, too late’

The government’s last-minute extension of the Infection Control Fund (ICF) was ‘too little, too late’, the National Care Forum (NCF) said.

Health bosses have announced a £388.3m-extension of the Infection Control Fund (ICF) and the designated settings and the associated indemnity scheme, which were due to end on September 30, as well as the launch of the determination service for those self-certifying in relation to vaccine exemption.

Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum, said waiting until just before both the funding and insurance runs out to announce the extensions makes a mockery of the notion of a strategic, thought-through approach to ensuring that people receive the services they need. 

‘At the eleventh hour, the government has finally announced an extension to the funding for adult social care to support the delivery of care services in a Covid-safe environment.

‘The existing funding came to an end on September 30, the very same day that the government announced the extension. How it expects providers of care to plan and sustain services with the last-minute nature of this extension is a mystery.

‘While the £388m funding is welcome, it should be noted that this represents a 23% reduction of equivalent funding provided by the government in only July of this year, and only 44% reduction of that provided in April of this year.

‘Yet for care services, nothing has changed in terms of the areas that the fund is intended to support.

‘The testing regime remains, the strictures around visiting are still in place, there are extra conditions around vaccination ongoing with more on the horizon, isolation for staff working with clinically vulnerable people is still required and infection control measures including the restriction of staff movement remain a firm requirement.

‘This is before taking into consideration the £100m of additional costs directly to care homes for implementing mandatory vaccinations that the governments’ own impact assessments determined.’

In addition, the government has announced the extension of funding for the Designated Settings, and the associated Indemnity Schemes. Vic Rayner said:

‘Designated Schemes were a central plank of the government’s plans to ensure Covid positive patients from hospital were not discharged to care homes.

‘This scheme has been very challenging for care providers to deliver, and made more so by the short-term approach to funding and insuring the services.

‘Leaving the announcement to confirm the extension of these schemes until the night before both the funding and insurance runs out makes a mockery of the notion of a strategic, thought-through approach to ensuring that people receive the services they need in localities across the country.’

Finally, the government has finalised a scheme to determine exemptions for those who need to determine whether they are medically exempt from vaccination. Vic Rayner said:

‘Following the last-minute introduction of the temporary self-certification scheme for exemption introduced on September 15, the government has now finalised the permanent exemption service.

‘This will mean that going forward, no one will be able to self-certify, and anyone who has done so to date will only have a 12 week period to either have their exemption confirmed or to receive both doses of the vaccine in order to be able to be deployed within a care home. 12 weeks takes us to 23 December, right in the middle of winter pressures which will be even greater this year because of the current workforce crisis.

‘While the certainty around exemptions is welcome, we continue to call for a delay to the implementation of mandatory vaccination scheme within care homes until the wider consultation across health and care has concluded.’

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Protecting care home staff and residents has been a priority throughout the pandemic and as we move into winter I am committed to ensuring they have the resources they need.

‘This additional funding demonstrates how we will continue to support those delivering and receiving care.

‘Everyone deserves to be cared for with dignity and respect and our wider reforms will continue to work towards our aim of a world-leading social care system.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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