COVID-19 Information for Care and Support Providers
Frequently Asked Questions
Last updated 19 March 2020
1. Can you tell me more about how the Council is responding to the escalating situation in relation to coronavirus?
The Council’s website has a dedicated page of coronavirus developments.
We are responding to the escalating situation in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), the National Health Service (NHS), Government, and other key organisations in the city. Working with our part-ners, we are following national guidance and assessing risk on a daily basis. This is an evolving situation, and PHE and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer are updat-ing information on an almost hourly basis.
Our resilience and continuity plans are being updated to ensure priority services are maintained to protect the most vulnerable people in the city, as the national measures to control the outbreak continue to be stepped up. As council staff become sick and resources become stretched, staff will be reallocated to ensure that essen-tial services continue with minimal disruption and the most vulnerable members of our society continue to receive the care they need.
We are also working with partners to actively look at how resources across the whole city may be maximised to ensure the continuation of essential services.
Government has announced that funding will be available to support public services, individuals and businesses through the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. For more information, see Government guidance: Support for those affected by COVID-19. We are waiting for further guidance and confirmation from Government on how this support will be defrayed to support public services, and how it can be used.
We will continue to follow the advice of PHE; the latest information can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus and includes a range of specific advice for health profes-sionals and other organisations (Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance). We suggest that providers continue to monitor the PHE website for updates and the most current in-formation as frequently as possible. The Government is currently coordinating the na-tional response the outbreak of COVID-19 and has published its coronavirus (COVID-19) action plan here.
2. How is the Council working with care and support providers to help them to remain operationally and financially resilient?
We are working with providers on a collaborative basis to identify issues and jointly agree actions and mutual expectations for the delivery of key care and support services across the city. As this is a fast moving and challenging situation, it’s critical that we have in place good two-way communications, so we can take future decisions jointly as the situation develops to ensure the continued provision of critical care and support services.
We are working with providers and local partners to understand and build on providers’ own business continuity arrangements for the delivery of care and support across the city. This includes working together to identify any aspects where additional assistance may be required, including but not limited, areas relating to workforce availability, cash flow and additional expenses, infection control supply chain resilience.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has published Guidance for Commissioners: Social care provider resilience during COVID-19; the Council is actively considering, with its partners, the issues and possible mitigating measures set out in this guidance, in order to support local providers.
3. Who should I contact if I need advice or want to talk to someone about the services I deliver and the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Providers should follow Public Health England advice which can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus. This includes a range of specific advice for health profes-sionals and other organisations Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance. We suggest that providers continue to monitor the PHE website for updates and the most current in-formation as frequently as possible.
Providers should contact the Council’s Commissioning and Procurement Team to dis-cuss any proposed changes in locally delivered care and support arrangements. For example, any planned service closures or changes in overall delivery arrangement.
For any changes to a person’s individual package of social care, please see question 8.
The Council’s website has dedicated page of coronavirus developments in Newcastle.
4. How do I access the free issue of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) available for care home and home care providers from the pandemic influenza stockpile?
Government announced on 13 March 2020 the free issue of PPE to social care pro-viders, which will be issued from the pandemic influenza stockpile.
The latest update from the Department of Health and Social Care on 18 March is below:
“We know that supplies of personal protective equipment to the care sector is fundamental for the good care of individuals with suspected symptoms of Covid-19. We are clear that no wholesaler has been asked to prioritise NHS provision over the care sector nor should they be doing so.
Free distribution of fluid repellent facemasks from the pandemic flu stock will start today [Wednesday 18th March], with every care home and home care provider receiving at least 300 facemasks. We anticipate the distribution will be complete by next Tuesday. This is aimed at tiding over the initial rise in demand following the change of guidance on facemasks last week. Providers are not required to take action; the stock will be delivered to them.
We are working rapidly with wholesalers to ensure a longer-term supply of all aspects of per-sonal protective equipment, including gloves, aprons, facemasks and hand sanitiser. For future PPE requirements, care providers should order PPE from their usual suppliers.
If care providers have immediate concerns overs their supply of PPE, there is now a dedicated line for you, the health and social care sector.
The National Supply Disruption line
Tel: 0800 915 9964
In the future, if a care provider is unable to get PPE from their normal supplier, the supplier is will be asked to report this to the National Supply Disruption Response (NSDR) team (as above), who can advise on alternative suppliers."
5. I am struggling with staffing capacity for critical services. Can I employ staff whose Enhanced DBS checks have not yet been completed?
We already have an Adult First policy in place enabling residential care providers to employ up to 3 members of staff who have passed their ‘ISA Adult First’ check, provided this is agreed with our Commissioning and Procurement Team and carefully risk managed by the provider.
The Government’s Coronavirus Bill to be published on the 19 March 2020 will enable regulators to emergency register suitable people as regulated healthcare professionals, such as nurses, midwives or paramedics. This might include (but will not be limited to) recently retired professionals and students who are near the end of their training. Registered staff can then be used appropriately, with decisions made on a local basis, to increase the available health and social care workforce and enable essential health and care services to function during the height of the epidemic.
Once we have the details of this Bill we will update our position.
6. I am worried that delays in invoicing or payments will have a serious negative impact on my cash flow.
The type of payment providers receive for the care or support they deliver depends on the type of contract or funding agreement they have with the Council.
Many social care providers are required to submit financial returns or invoices for the care hours or support delivered for each person. The amount paid is variable depending on the actual care delivered, or number of individuals supported. We are actively looking at our payment arrangements for our social care providers to mitigate pressures that may arise from these arrangements. Further infor-mation on this will follow.
Providers with fixed price contracts will continue to be paid in the usual way. Many care and support providers with fixed price contracts are paid on a quarterly basis, in advance. We are conscious that some elements of service delivery may need to be adapted or changed. We are working with providers to ensure priority services are maintained to protect the most vulnerable people in the city.
7. I am incurring extra costs as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) due to increased expenditure on staffing and supplies. Will there be any additional funding from the local authority for these costs?
We recognise that many providers’ continuity plans are dependent on being able to bring in additional staff in the event of major staff shortages, this includes use of agency staff in extreme cases. We also recognise that providers may be incurring additional expenses due to increased expenditure on infection control supplies.
We have already contacted providers delivering critical care and support services as part of assuring business continuity arrangements, to collect information on areas relating to cash flow and additional expenses as a result of responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We will continue to work with providers to understand the impact on their financial resilience.
Government has announced that funding will be available to support public services, individuals and businesses through the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. For more information, see Government guidance: Support for those affected by COVID-19.
We are waiting for further guidance and confirmation from Government on how this support will be defrayed to support public services, and how it may be used.
8. Can I adjust the care packages for people I support?
Where a person’s care needs have changed, providers should follow the usual process by contacting Community Health and Social Care Direct.
However, we recognise that care providers may need to rapidly adjust packages of care for the people they support in order to meet the most urgent needs and the availability of staff, where needs have not changed.
Providers should act in the best interests of the health and wellbeing of the people they serve, with the top priority being the protection of life.
We specifically recognise that providers of homecare will need to be able to make rapid decisions around appropriate adjustment to care delivered against plan; some visits may also longer due to infection control procedures, whilst some packages may need to be adjusted.
We will work with providers of homecare to agree how practically to adjust packages in a timely and non-bureaucratic way within agreed limits. Further information on this will follow.
9. Will the Council adapt its usual contract monitoring arrangements in response to the coronavirus outbreak?
The Council’s Commissioning and Procurement Team are suspending current monitoring programmes in response to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It may however be necessary to access some settings if we have high levels of concern around harm, such as allegations of abuse and safeguarding concerns. In these instances, we will liaise with providers prior to any visit taking place, or to agree how this will be conducted.
Our Commissioning and Procurement Team will focus on:
- shoring-up provider contingency plans and supporting providers to lever in additional support where required
- supporting providers to implement shared delivery models where possible in response to the outbreak
- providing liaison and information sharing between Council and third-party provider delivery
- identifying new/alternative provision that may be required
- shifting towards remote working methods to maintain safety and combat the spread of infection