Hammersmith and Fulham council saved lives by defying Government and refusing to allow untested discharged hospital patients into its care homes in March

By Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter

NHS and council chiefs in Hammersmith and Fulham have revealed how they saved the lives of care home residents by defying instructions from the Government.

It has been widely reported how mistakes were made across the country, when hospital patients were discharged and put in care homes in late March, in order to clear wards for incoming coronavirus patients.

This meant patients who had the virus but were not showing symptoms would have spread the virus to vulnerable care home residents and staff.

The Office for National Statistics said that death certificates of 19,394 care home residents issued between March and mid-June mentioned “novel coronavirus”.

Ben Coleman, Hammersmith and Fulham’s cabinet member for health, recently said that 50 care home residents in the borough have died of causes linked to the virus.

At a full council meeting on July 15, Mr Coleman said: “In our own borough it’s very sad but 308 residents have lost their lives.

“And of these, 16 per cent, a much lower rate than the rest of the country, but still, 50 people who are no longer with us, were care home residents.

“Our hearts go out to all their families and loved ones.”

He explained that this low death rate was achieved, in many cases, by refusing to let patients be discharged to the borough’s four care homes from Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals without being tested.

At a health and wellbeing board on July 22, Mr Coleman said: “We had a problem because the hospitals were being told by NHS centrally – which is this nightmare system that NHS locally constantly struggles with – to push people out of hospital into the homes.

“We were saying ‘stop it or we will have to shut the homes’. And the NHS was struggling with the dictat from on high.

“So we as a council took the decision in early April when we were aware this was happening. We closed the homes. And we had quite a lot of challenge from within the system to be honest. We rallied and we saved lives.”

After the initial row, he said the leadership of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the local hospitals, joined forces with the council’s social care department to carry out a huge testing regime within the borough’s care homes.

Mr Coleman continued: “The incredible team at the NHS joined together with the council under our director of social care, Lisa Redfern,  in going in and doing things that no-one else in the country was doing.

“People who had symptoms and people with no symptoms were tested. No-one else was doing that. We tested staff and patients – no-one was doing that.”

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