Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Thorpe appealed for PPE in March to help patients leave hospital for care homes

The leader of Greenwich Council has said he is “absolutely sure” hospital patients with coronavirus were transferred to care homes in attempt to free up intensive care space during the early stages of the deadly pandemic.

The revelation came as it was confirmed eight of Greenwich’s 11 care homes recorded outbreaks of Covid-19 as the local authority scrambled to source PPE after supply lines broke down. An outbreak is defined as where more than one case is recorded.

The details came as Greenwich councillors quizzed council leader Danny Thorpe at the first overview and scrutiny meeting held since the country went into lockdown in March.

  • See also: Greenwich primary schools should be all be open by 29 June
  • Labour councillor John Fahy had asked if national stories of hospitals using social care as an avenue to get elderly people out of hospitals and into care homes to avoid “bed-blocking” had occurred locally.

    “I couldn’t swear my life on it but I’m absolutely sure that some people would have been caught up in initial guidance where people were being transmitted from hospital to care homes with coronavirus,” Thorpe responded.

    The leader added Greenwich Council’s emergency appeal for PPE – which saw Thorpe source 20,000 items himself during the early stages of the pandemic – was made “to support the discharge of people from hospitals to care homes”.

    The council’s efforts included reopening decommissioned sheltered accommodation at Langton Way, Blackheath, to create a facility for people moved out of hospital. Addressing members of the committee in their online meeting, Thorpe said the response was taken as authorities across the UK worked “flat-out” to create 32,000 hospital beds he said had been lost in the preceding decade.

    The Labour leader of Greenwich said the council had been working “flat-out” to ramp up testing in care homes in recent weeks – saying initial positive results had picked up asymptomatic carriers, while at least one home had no cases in any form last week.

    He added Greenwich was one of the first councils in the country whose public health teams went into care homes directly to help with infection control.

    It was unclear if the authority would have to foot the bill for supplying PPE to care homes, Thorpe said,  with “the first priority…to get them the stuff”.

    As of Monday Greenwich had recorded 700 cases of Covid-19, according to Public Health England

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    Lachlan Leeming is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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