G7 hotel in Cornwall closes after outbreak of Covid-19

A hotel in Cornwall reportedly hosting media and security staff for the G7 summit has closed following a coronavirus outbreak.

Neil Shaw www.devonlive.com

The website for the Pedn Olva hotel in St Ives said it has temporarily shut on Thursday and directed inquiries to its owners, St Austell Brewery.

The hotel said a number of staff had been affected and it would close for deep cleaning following discussions with Public Health England (PHE).

German media reported that two security guards for Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel were staying inside the hotel, although it is not clear if they are quarantining or have been relocated.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Ms Merkel would still be attending the summit.

According to reports, the hotel had identified a coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday.

The hotel owners, St Austell Brewery, said: “We can confirm that a number of our team at the Pedn Olva, St Ives, have tested positive for Covid-19.

“We immediately notified Public Health England of these cases and have been working closely with them to ensure we follow all appropriate safety guidelines.

“Following extensive discussions over the last few days with PHE and Cornwall Council, we have taken the decision to fully close the hotel.

“We fully appreciate the inconvenience given the limited accommodation options available in the area at the moment but the safety and security of our team and guests is our upmost priority.

“The hotel will reopen once a full Covid-19 deep clean has taken place and we have the available staff to run it.”

Simon Norris, 62, who also lives near the hotel, said his wife saw people checking out of the hotel and leaving with bags at about 5pm.

“We don’t have a lot of direct contact with the hotel, I’m really saddened by the outbreak,” he told the PA news agency.

“I feel very sorry for the staff that work there because they have done a lot of work to open the hotel up for the G7 and visitors. It’s extremely disappointing.

“When we’ve gone there they’ve met all the Covid protocols, I think they’ve just been very, very unlucky. It’s a great shame really. Prior to this we have had no incidents of Covid in St Ives.”

PHE and the Department for Health and Social Care have been approached for comment.

Elsewhere, Devon and Cornwall Police denied claims of a coronavirus outbreak on the ferry used to accommodate officers to the G7 summit, saying none had tested positive.

Rachel Wigglesworth, director of Public Health for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, said that public health teams were used to dealing with outbreaks of coronavirus.

When asked on Sky News on Friday about a hotel, reportedly hosting G7 media and security staff, having to close due to a Covid-19 outbreak she said: “As we know from living with this global pandemic there’s always these cases that arise but we are used to dealing with these sort of incidents across the country now.

“Our public health teams and the expertise around them are helping to support venues where there are any outbreaks and sometimes a business has to make the decision that they operationally cannot continue to work rather than it necessarily being a public health issue where staff have to self isolate.

“What we are seeing across the country is there are outbreaks, we have slightly increased the rates of Covid over the last few weeks, I think related to the relaxation of the restrictions from May 17, so a lot more cases amongst hospitality venues and amongst younger people that are not vaccinated.

“So we do need to continue to vaccinate but also to then suppress these cases where we do identify them.”

Matt Hancock pledges to hand over any advice on discharges to care homes

Matt Hancock has promised to reveal internal advice that is alleged to have required testing for people discharged from hospitals into care homes at the start of the Covid pandemic, amid claims the guidance was weakened following pressure from his department.

Robert Booth www.theguardian.com 

The claims go to the core of a decision that meant thousands of people were discharged without Covid tests from hospitals into care homes in March and April 2020.

Giving evidence to MPs investigating the government’s Covid response, the health secretary denied knowledge of the advice that a whistleblower said was produced by two senior officials at Public Health England in March 2020, according to a report in the Byline Times. However, he said he would provide whatever they produced.

The practice of discharging without testing was driven by a need to free up hospital beds, but it seeded outbreaks in care homes where thousands died in the first peak of the pandemic. Testing only became mandatory in mid-April, but care operators have said they told Hancock and his officials several weeks earlier that testing was needed to stop outbreaks spreading from hospitals.

Public Health England (PHE) declined to comment on the claim. A spokesperson for Department of Health described it as “categorically untrue”.

“Our primary duty has been to save lives and our approach has been guided by the latest scientific evidence,” they said. “We have been committed to transparency throughout this pandemic, including working closely with Public Health England to ensure scientific advice and data is published honestly, openly, safely and in a timely manner.”

Hancock has previously claimed that the government put a “protective ring” around care homes, but he told the joint hearing of the health and social care and the science and technology select committees: “I think the most important words in the sentence are: ‘We tried to.’ It was very hard.”

He said that the decision to empty hospital beds amid rising cases was not made “to favour the NHS” and recalled seeing a TV news report from Spain early in the pandemic in which a care home had been abandoned and all of the residents had died.

However, he played down the effect of hospital discharges. He claimed that a study by PHE, which showed that only 1.6% of outbreaks in the first wave were caused by people discharged from hospitals, suggested that community transmission was a far bigger cause of infection in care homes.

However, the true number is likely to be significantly higher, as so little testing was available. Greg Clark, the chair of the science and technology committee, suggested it was therefore “completely impossible” for Hancock to make the claim. The health secretary stood by the figure but conceded it was based on “imperfect information”.

Hancock told the committee that “each and every death in a care home weighs heavily on me and always will” and he denied the explosive claim last month by the former No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings that he had misled the prime minister in March by telling him people discharged into care homes were being tested.

“We set out a policy that people would be tested when tests were available and then I set about building the testing capacity to be able to deliver on that,” Hancock said.

He said he did not recall Boris Johnson being angry about what had happened in care homes in April after he had been in hospital with Covid, as Cummings has claimed.

He said: “The clinical advice was that a test on somebody who didn’t have any symptoms could easily return a false negative and therefore give false assurance … Clinicians were worried that because it took four days to turn a test around that if you leave somebody in hospital those four days, they might catch Covid and therefore go back to a care home with a negative test result but having caught it.”

That appeared to be supported by Dr David Oliver, a consultant in geriatrics and acute general medicine, who wrote on Wednesday in the British Medical Journal that concerns raised by social care leaders about discharges were overridden as much by clinicians and NHS managers as by politicians.

Oliver said: “Keeping lots of care home residents in scarce beds, waiting for tests we had insufficient access to, with a high first false-negative rate and no clear understanding of how long people remained infectious, could have posed other risks to these residents and to other patients in need.”

Devon home care agency placed in special measures – Newton Poppleford

Following a safeguarding investigation, East Devon home care agency Charity Earnshaw has been rated ‘inadequate’ and placed in special measures.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

The domiciliary care service, which supports adults in the community who require assistance with personal care – including people living with dementia, physical disabilities, mental health needs and sensory impairments – has had local authority placements suspended, as well as new private placements.

Independent health and social care regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC) recently inspected the service and fund it was failing in an number of areas. These include:

  • Safe and effective care
  • Risks were not well managed
  • The administration of medicines was not safe
  • Safeguarding concerns had not always been managed appropriately and had not been reported
  • People were not supported to have maximum choice and control of their lives
  • Inadequate staff training and support
  • ‘significant delay’ in Covid-19 infection control training

The CQC said the Newton Poppleford based provider had not recognised the quality of the service had significantly deteriorated and had therefore put people at risk of unsafe care. It added it had only begun to make improvements when other agencies became involved through the safeguarding process.

The recently published report said: “We undertook this targeted inspection to follow up on specific concerns we had received about the safety and quality of the service. These concerns were subject to individual and whole service safeguarding investigations.

“A decision was made for us to inspect and focus on the management of risk, staff training,medicines administration and quality assurance. During the inspection, we found additional concerns related to protecting people’s human rights; the management of safeguarding and the knowledge and skills of the provider.

“We therefore widened the scope to become a focused inspection which included the key questions of safe, effective and well-led. We have found evidence that the provider needs to make improvements.”

It added: “Prior to our inspection we found peoples experience of the service was poor and made a number of safeguarding referrals. A whole service safeguarding enquiry was in progress with the local authority. A suspension of local authority placements was in place, and a voluntary suspension of new private placements.”

It continued: “Concerns about people’s health and safety had not always been escalated by staff, and not all staff we spoke with were aware of the processes for doing so. External health professionals and relatives told us the provider did not always work effectively with other agencies to provide safe and effective care.

“Safeguarding concerns had not always been managed appropriately and had not been reported to the local authority or the CQC. Safeguarding policies and procedures were out of date.”

It was noted Charity Earnshaw had expanded significantly since the last inspection in June 2019, when 18 people were being supported.

By August 2020 it had increased to 33 people. The staff team had increased from five to 14. It provides services in Newton Poppleford, Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary, Woodbury, Seaton, Tipton St John, Exmouth and Colyton Raleigh.

The report said: “The provider told us the training and development of the staff team and service had been delayed as a result of the pandemic and lockdown.

“The provider and staff team were committed to improving the quality and safety of the service. One member of staff told us, ‘a lot of things need to be updated. I know the provider is doing their utmost to get everything in place. I’m happy now it’s being put in place. It’s improving’.”

Inspectors also received positive reports about the service. Overall people said the service was reliable. One person said: “I have no objections. They turn up on time. They are nice carers, very helpful… I have a list of who is coming and what times and they turn up on time.”

Charity Earnshaw is working with the local authority and has drawn up a service improvement plan.

The overall rating for this service following the CQC inspection is now ‘Inadequate’ and the service is therefore in ‘special measures’. It means the CQC will keep the service under review and will reinspect within 6 months to check for significant improvements.

Charity Earnshaw were approached for a comment.

Investigation concludes at care home at centre of Covid outbreak

Police have concluded an investigation into a Sidmouth care home where 11 residents died following a major Covid-19 outbreak – with no further action to be taken against two staff members who were arrested.

Jamie Hawkins www.devonlive.com

The deaths were reported at the Holmesley Care Home in Sidford between February 25 and April 16, which were all believed to be related to a coronavirus outbreak.

An investigation, led by Devon and Cornwall Police, was launched in partnership with a multi-agency safeguarding response to ensure the well-being of the residents in the home and specialist officers have been liaising with family members.

Following extensive enquiries, which involved interviewing staff and residents’ family members and searches of the home, and with early consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, the decision has been made that the criminal threshold for neglect has not been met.

As part of police enquiries, no further action will therefore be taken against a 57-year-old woman from Sidmouth and a 30-year-old man from Exeter, who were investigated on suspicion of wilful neglect under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

Both the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are now considering offences relating to the Care Act 2014 and health and safety legislation.

Senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Lesley Bulley, said: “Our priority has been to understand the cause of the outbreak at Holmesley Care Home and ensure that safeguarding concerns were addressed.

“We would like to thank the families of the deceased for their patience throughout what has been a really complex case.”

A CQC spokesperson, added: “Following the inspection of Holmesley Care Home, CQC imposed urgent conditions upon the service. Following this, CQC are considering what further action we may want to take.”