CARE home managers say not testing people for Covid-19 who are discharged from hospitals into care is akin to ‘inviting the virus in’.

The Government says it needs care homes to continue to make their full capacity available to support the national effort in tackling the coronavirus outbreak both in terms of beds and their skilled workers.

They say helping to move patients who no longer require acute care into the most appropriate setting will help to save thousands of lives.

But one county care home director, who did not wish to be named, says not testing hospital discharges for coronavirus could lead to a situation like the one in Spain where the army found dozens of elderly residents dead.

“Herefordshire Council wants us to take on people being discharged from the county hospital without being tested for coronavirus,” the care home director said.

“There are three types of patients they want us to house. The first tier are those who have recovered from surgery who aren’t thought to have the virus.

“The second tier are those who were positive with Covid-19 and may have recovered.

“And the third tier are those who are positive with the disease and are dying.

“It is unbelievable what they want us to do. They’ve told us that we aren’t helping if we don’t open our doors to the hospital.

“But without testing them, we are just inviting the virus into the care homes. And once it gets in the death rate will rocket.

“They say we’ve got PPE and can isolate these patients. But once the virus is in the care home it can spread very easily.

“It’s been happening in Italy and in Spain. Nobody cares. They say it is for the greater good to avoid younger people dying. But they can’t get us to make that sort of decision.

“Care homes are at breaking point nationally and in the county with some places reporting 40 per cent absence rate of staff.

“We cannot accept people without testing.”

Senior council officers said local care homes in the county are taking patients discharged from hospital on a daily basis.

They also said care home managers had praised the council for how well they are dealing with the crisis.

Paul Smith, all ages commissioning assistant director, said they are following national guidance which does not require testing discharged patients going into care.

“There’s no necessity in the Public Health England guidance for patients to be tested before they enter a care home,” he said.

When asked about the categories of patients being discharged he said: “To be clear, no discharges will be tested so the category of the individual is irrelevant.

“No patients will be tested before being requested to be discharged into a care home. The government guidance is absolutely clear.”

Some 14 local care providers have refused to take part in discussions with the council.

Mr Smith said it was up to each care provider to decide whether to take part.

“There are 89 in Herefordshire and the majority of those have taken part in teleconferences very collaboratively and the majority of them have felt that they were very worthwhile,” he said.

“No provider is obligated to take a hospital discharge.”

When asked about concerns that the virus could spread like ‘wildfire’ in the care homes he said it was a matter for care homes to take up with central government.

A new report by London School of Economics academics suggests around half of deaths from Covid-19 in Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium are happening in care homes.