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‘NHS Can’t Cope Without The Private Care Sector’

Published on: 13 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 3 Mar, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

“Without the private care sector, the NHS wouldn’t cope, even outside of the coronavirus crisis,” said Simon Whalley, vice-chairman of the Surrey Care Association and chairman of Birtley House Nursing Home.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS spoke to Simon about the care sector and the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are managing at Birtley House [in Bramley],” said Simon. “We have had six of our residents with symptoms but they have all recovered. About 10% of our staff have had to self-isolate.”

But there was frustration about how he sees the care sector being treated. “People have forgotten about us,” said Simon. “The public and the media haven’t recognised the importance of care homes.”

The good weather has meant that residents can get out more in the spacious grounds at Birtley House Nursing Home in Bramley, during the coronavirus lockdown.

Against the background of deaths in care homes not being included in the official figures, he was scathing about the government’s approach to testing for coronavirus.

“We can’t get any testing done which is really stupid. The government keeps on talking about it but nothing happens. We aren’t allowed to use the testing facility at Chessington, it’s only for the NHS. And as far as we are aware, it’s nearly empty; you need an appointment to attend, so hardly anyone goes there.

“It would have been so much better if we could have tested our staff and residents.”

On personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, Simon said that they had enough but they were trying to build up its stocks and that was proving “difficult”.  Other local homes contacted by The Dragon also confirmed that they had sufficient PPE at present.

Simon added: “If there is a positive side of the crisis from the care homes perspective, the number of applications to work here have accelerated, mainly because people have lost their jobs elsewhere.”

He sees that there is a much wider problem in social care with local authorities and the NHS not working together effectively. Private care homes can be a very efficient way of looking after our elderly, Simon believes, but: “They keep putting up structures to work together but they won’t pool the budgets.

“We are one of the more expensive homes around and even our fees are half the cost of an NHS bed. It costs £1,500 just to get admitted to hospital.”

Birtley House Nursing Home is “probably one of the oldest care homes still in the same family.” said Simon Whalley, chairman of the care home.

The coronavirus is testing the care homes and the staff. Both residents and their families are missing the visits which have, except in extreme circumstances, been stopped.

“We are using Skype and social media to keep in touch. We are getting them outside in this lovely weather and it helps, said Simon.”

Local people have been wonderful, he added. “We have been getting unexpected gifts from schools and people around here. It’s great that people are thinking of us.”

“Keep smiling” says Birtley House resident, Mrs Greaves.

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