Staffing issues in care homes have contributed to COVID-19 infections amongst residents Health Foundation response to ONS data on deaths involving COVID-19 in the care sector and the results of the COVID-19 surveillance study in care homes (Vivaldi)

3 July 2020

Commenting on today’s release of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on deaths involving Covid-19 in the care sector, and the results of the COVID-19 surveillance study in care homes (Vivaldi), Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive at the Health Foundation, said

'Today’s data illustrate the fragility of the social care sector before the pandemic – particularly in terms of major staffing shortages. This fragility is likely to have contributed to the scale of the impact we have seen, particularly in care homes. Findings from the Vivaldi 1 study confirm that those care homes using bank and agency workers, and a minority that did not offer sick pay to staff, have seen higher rates of infection amongst residents.

'The social care sector is characterised by high vacancy and staff turnover rates. Social care staff are underpaid  – around 440,000 directly employed social care staff in England left their jobs in 2018/19. Poor conditions and heavy reliance on agency and zero-hours contract staff posed a major challenge for social care even before the pandemic and exacerbated problems during it. Government action on social care in response to the pandemic has been late – the overall 'action plan' for social care was published nearly a month after the lockdown was introduced. It is important to recognise that longstanding political neglect of the social care sector has left staff and those they care for, fatally exposed.'

Media contact

Simon Perry
Simon.Perry@health.org.uk
020 7257 2093

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