Kate Allen, CEO Update 12th June 2020
Ever the optimist, I was somewhat reassured to hear on the news this week recognition that a lot (if not the majority) of autistic people receiving support, live in supported living models of support, not care homes. It has been of great frustration that PPE, funding and tests have been prioritised for care homes, preventing us from accessing the same vital services.
The potential of the antibody test is of great interest to us at present. We have been advised that an antibody testing programme will be rolled out across England led by each local authority, although we are yet to receive details. However, the antibody test is currently a blood test, which, for a number of people we support, will be very problematic. The hope is that with time the antibody test can be conducted with a finger prick test and that will make it much more accessible. Furthermore, scientists are yet to advise how long immunity may last and so it has questionable value at the moment, but is promising for the future.
We occasionally receive questions from relatives or employees that I incorporate during my weekly update, on the basis that if one person would like to know, there will be others.
One question we recently received was about the isolation actions of staff who come into contact with someone who has the virus. Advice from NHS England is clear that if staff are wearing the correct PPE and the PPE is not breached (i.e. it is not pulled off or damaged) then the member of staff does not need to self-isolate. This is the approach across health and social care, and allows our frontline key workers to continue working. If, however, a member of staff is informed through the track & trace system that they have been in contact with someone who has contracted the virus, outside of the workplace and when they are not wearing PPE, then they will need to self-isolate as a general member of public. This is why we continue to ask our employees to follow the government guidance around social distancing, to reduce the transmission risk.
If we have a large number of staff advised to self-isolate it may impact on our ability to provide support. Our approach will be the same as it has been; to do the best we can with the resources available. This will be using agency staff – many of whom are familiar to our teams and considered part of our team – to help our permanent support teams, along with bank staff. We may not be able to deliver all of the support hours but we will focus on ensuring people are safe. We may need to reallocate staff from other people we support. This does not mean they are not important to us and I ask for your understanding where that might happen, we have to respond to those who are most at risk. We might also ask relatives and families for help. However, our priority is to ensure we minimise the transmission risk of Covid-19 and our approach so far, with the help of some very hard-working and loyal autism support workers, has been incredibly successful. This week has been another one whereby we have had no new cases of Covid-19 in people we support or our employees.
Many of you will have seen the reports on the numbers of people with a learning disability who have died. There were sadly 386 deaths compared to 165 during the same period last year. It is a deeply distressing number and is of great concern. I am liaising with our health and social care sector partners to await greater analysis before evidence-based conclusions can be drawn on why that might be. With over 41,000 deaths as I write this, the entire population is being affected and therefore some increase compared to last year is sadly to be expected. Furthermore it has been much harder, if not impossible, for people receiving care to self-isolate as they are dependent on support and care workers coming into their homes. However, whilst I understand some of the logical explanations, we will stand up and call for action if we find that people have died as a result of poor and/or discriminatory health care. That is not acceptable.