At the end of last year, our Prime Minster set out the revised Covid-19 Winter Plan. The key aim was to keep coronavirus under control through winter until the benefits of the mass vaccination programme are seen across all health and social care settings.
However, while there is a need to minimise risk and any unnecessary staff movement, care providers still need to continue to operate services effectively.
An overstretched workforce
Restricting staff movement is critical to minimising the risk of transmission. In response to the government’s consultation in January 2021, the care provider sector called for an increase in staffing capacity instead of regulation to achieve this goal.
The emergence of a new and highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 has resulted in increased staffing shortages due to staff testing positive for COVID-19 or having to self-isolate.
In addition, some people being discharged from hospital may require complex or increased social care as they recover from COVID-19 and other illnesses. To enable providers to meet these workforce challenges, on 16 January 2021 the government announced an extra £120 million Workforce Capacity Fund to support local authorities to manage workforce pressures.
With this backdrop and with clinical input from Ian Turner Chair of RNHA, the CPA developed and recently updated a framework to support services to manage the situation and provide operational tools that – over time – can drive down the number of staff movements and hence reduce the transmission of the virus.
Developing a risk management framework
The key driver of the assessment must be for providers to continue to operate with enough staff who are also appropriately qualified to meet the needs of service users throughout all stages of the pandemic.
Changes to terms and conditions of staff contracts can take time and hence a requirement will be to define and report on those additional roles which staff undertake.
This will need careful employee management in the short term, whilst contractual changes are consulted upon in a longer timescale.
Recruitment of additional staff, can take weeks and, more often in isolated areas, months.
Actions for initial assessment
The following list of possible actions can be used when carrying out an initial risk assessment:
- identify staff who work across multiple care services and maintain, review and update their records on a monthly basis
- consult with staff to add a condition to staff contracts, committing staff to notify their employer, if and when they undertake work in another care setting (including informal care) during the pandemic
- identify options to change staffing arrangements and working patterns while continuing to advertise and recruit staff Advertise a role on DWP ‘Find a Job’
- discuss with staff identified as working between care services options such as changes to working patterns or roles to minimise or stop movement between services
- use the Infection Control Fund 2 or the new Workforce Capacity Fund to remunerate staff to work for a single care service
- if using agency staff is likely, try to negotiate exclusivity arrangements with an agency with detailed agreements on testing, symptom checking and other infection control issues
- consider the use of cohorting different groups of residents and the effect that these measures have on staff movement between these groups
- ensure all relevant staff are tested including lateral flow tests for high-risk staff
To find out more
For a more details, visit https://careprovideralliance.org.uk/coronavirus-staff-movement-risk-management-framework-cpa
The CPA has welcomed Government support; this includes the £120m Workforce Capacity Fund announced in January 2021 fast-track DBS checks for new recruits and volunteers, and up to £3 million to support free rapid online training for new recruits, existing staff and volunteers.
In addition, to help address the workforce shortfall, the government’s new national recruitment campaign aims to attract an additional 20,000 people into social care over the next three months.