New data has revealed the parts of Wales which discharged the most people into care homes without a test.
Between March 1 and the end of May, 2,355 people were discharged from Welsh hospitals into care homes. Of them, only approximately* 700 were tested for the virus.
Leading experts and a WalesOnline investigation found that hospital discharges are one of the principle ways that the virus was able to enter Welsh care settings, resulting in the deaths of more than 700 people.
It was not until April 29 that the Welsh Government made it mandatory in Wales that people being sent from hospitals into care homes should be routinely tested – two weeks after England.
A series of Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) has found that one health board only tested 6.8% of all hospital discharges between March 1 and May 31.
Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board tested 33 of 488 people it discharged into care homes for the virus during that period. This included a month where every hospital to care setting discharge had to be tested.
This statistic is made all the more stark because no other health board tested less than 29% with some testing at as much as 60%. The health board is currently the centre of the outbreak that’s centered on Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
Last week WalesOnline broke the story of Margaret Blaylock, 83, who was discharged without a test into her daughter’s care even though the hospital knew she had been exposed to someone with the virus. No test was taken. Margaret was later readmitted and died of the virus.
The health board had previously failed to report 85 coronavirus deaths because they were not using the correct electronic system.
How did the other health boards perform?
Hywel Dda – 142 tested of 356 discharges – 40%
Swansea Bay – 139 tested of 319 discharges – 44%
Aneurin Bevan – 256 tested of 414 discharges – 62%
Cwm Taff- 104 tested out of 309 discharges – 34%
Powys – 26 tested out of 89 discharges – 29%
Cardiff and Vale – 380 discharges but the health board said it would take them too long to work out how many were tested.
A convoluted and confused system
What is clear from the seven FOIs is how convoluted and fragmented the Welsh NHS is. Cardiff and Vale were not able to produce the figure for how many people were tested because it would have taken too long to work out. Yet other, larger health boards were able to do so easily.
Aneurin Bevan and Swansea Bay health boards were able to tell us how many people were returning to their old home and how many went to new ones – all of the others said they didn’t record it.
Powys and Aneurin Bevan revealed how many residents subsequently died of the virus, but the others said they didn’t record this information.
It is clear that all the health boards have completely different systems which makes it hard to see any wider Wales perspective or easily share data.
In response to the FOI a Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board spokeswoman said: “The health board have followed Welsh Government guidance throughout the course of the pandemic. Guidance issued by Welsh Government on April 8, 2020 required health boards to notify care homes of the results of any patients who had previously had a test for Covid-19, either at the time of transfer from hospital to a care home, or in a ‘timely manner’ thereafter. This guidance did not set out that negative tests were required prior to transfer or admission into a residential care bed.
“On April 22, 2020, a letter was received from Welsh Government requesting that all patients being discharged from hospital to a step down or care home setting be tested regardless of whether or not they were admitted to hospital with Covid-19. The health board has complied with these requirements.”
The FOI’s were sent to WalesOnline by RCT Councillor Mike Powell.
(*Cardiff and Vale did not supply the number of people who were discharged but not tested.)