• Government agrees to provide “time-limited” indemnity insurance to encourage care providers to take covid-positive patients
  • Nadhim Zahawi agreed “insurance has been a barrier” to care providers, an issue first reported by HSJ
  • But critics say scheme may not be enough to encourage social care providers to open doors to new residents

The Treasury has agreed to fund “time-limited” insurance cover to encourage care providers to accept covid patients from hospitals — although some have questioned whether the measure goes far enough to help ease the NHS capacity crisis.

In a written statement, Nadhim Zahawi, the covid vaccine deployment minister, said yesterday the “government will introduce a targeted and time-limited indemnity offer to fill gaps in commercial cover” for those care homes that are prepared to admit covid-positive patients.

He acknowledged “obtaining sufficient insurance has been a barrier” for care providers to create covid-positive care homes, which is an issue HSJ first reported. HSJ’s reporting on the problem was mentioned twice during House of Lord’s debates on the covid-19 pandemic

Beds in many care homes are lying empty, but many providers are refusing to accept residents where there is a risk of introducing covid-19 and fear repeating the disaster of the spring in the sector.

Mr Zahawi said the cover would last for around eight weeks, until mid-March. But the government has not yet said exactly when the scheme will launch, how providers can sign-up for cover, or revealed the eligibility criteria.

Multiple senior NHS leaders have also been calling for the changes so the NHS can discharge more patients into care homes to help them manage the current bed crisis felt across England.

Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, which represents care providers in parts of Yorkshire, told HSJ: “We are glad the government has agreed to do something as they have been sitting on this for a long time, but do I think this will encourage social care providers to sign up to the designated setting scheme? Possibly not at the moment, because of the time-limited aspect.

“We need the insurance to last for longer. [The announcement] also doesn’t mention business interruption cover. If a care provider had an outbreak of covid and has to close temporarily, indemnity insurance wouldn’t cover the loss of income. So one could offer to become a designated care setting and then have no business left at the end of it.”

One official close to the issue also told HSJ the statement “set various alarm bells ringing for me. [It’s a] very limited time-frame, [with] high evidence barriers to accessing.”

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson added: “The government’s decision to fund insurance premiums… is a welcome development. It’s frustrating, however, that this has taken so long to resolve, given how long this issue has been a problem.

“It points to a wider challenge that needs addressing — how to get rapid coordinated action between the Treasury, [Department of Health and Social Care] and NHS England and NHS Improvement when the NHS frontline needs prompt progress on issues that require input or approval from all three.”

NHS Resolution will administer the scheme, while the DHSC will supervise. 

A spokesman for DHSC said: “We have worked with the insurance industry to find a solution and this arrangement will allow for safe transfers into designated care homes, while protecting other vulnerable residents, and are grateful for them stepping forward so impressively during the pandemic.”

Updated at 5pm 19 January 2021 to include a response from the DHSC.