Cause of Covid-19 outbreak Wellingborough care home under investigation

An investigation into the outbreak at Dukes Court in Wellingborough is being carried out

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By Sarah Ward

Updated version following statement after publication by the clinical commissioning group*

Fears a coronavirus outbreak at a Wellingborough care home was caused by the visiting vaccination team have been ruled out.

Following the arrival of the vaccination team on Friday, January 15, more than a dozen residents and staff at Dukes Court Care Home contracted the potentially lethal virus.

Melanie Cutler, whose 89 year old father is one of the residents who have sadly contracted Covid-19, said she was told by the care home’s manager she thought the outbreak was down to the vaccination team who reportedly came to the home with inadequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)  after having visited a large number of other care homes in the town on that same day.

Up until this point Dukes Court Care Home had not had a large outbreak and only isolated cases of the virus. The manager told Melanie she gave the vaccination staff additional PPE as what they were wearing was not up to the standards of the home. 

However today in a new statement released to NN Journal Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The roving team works on behalf of the Northamptonshire COVID-19 vaccination programme to vaccinate care home residents and those who are housebound. 

“The team adhere to strict Infection and Prevention Control protocols and work closely with system partners, including care home providers, to ensure the safe delivery of the vaccine.  As with all health and social care staff, those delivering the vaccination programme regularly undertake COVID-19 testing to reduce the risk of infection in the settings they visit.  No current care home outbreaks are associated with the roving teams delivery. ”

The CCG media officer said following a multi-agency review, the roving team has been ruled out as the cause of the outbreak but would not relate the process. She says contrary to the care home manager’s claims the staff were wearing adequate PPE and all had negative lateral flow tests before and after the visit.

The CCG would not say whether the cause of the outbreak has been established: “We are not able to provide specific details about outbreaks due to information governance regulations and in order to protect the privacy of individuals.”

A Public Health England spokesman said: “Public Health England East Midlands has convened an Outbreak Control Team (OCT) which is a formal meeting of all partners to address the control, investigation and management of the outbreak at Dukes Court Care Home.”

A spokesman for Avery Healthcare, which runs more than fifty homes across the country, said: “We are deeply saddened that the home has positive Covid-19 cases.  A number of residents and staff have tested positive and are displaying mild flu-like symptoms.  All residents are being isolated and cared for by our skilled staff, and we continue to maintain strict infection control protocols to minimise any further infections.  The Covid-19 tested positive staff are self-isolating at home.  We cannot confirm if the outbreak is a result of the GP practice attending the home to conduct the vaccines, but can assure you that a full investigation is being completed and that the home are (sic) in contact with Public Health England and the residents’ families.”

NN Journal put the allegations about the vaccination team not having adequate PPE to the urgent response team - which is handling media enquiries for the partner agencies of health and local councils in Northamptonshire.

But earlier this week they refused to confirm or deny the accusations made about the vaccination team that visited Dukes Court.

Their statement, attributed to the acting director of adult social care at County Council Katie Brown, said: “Public Health Northamptonshire tracks all of the county’s known outbreak situations and takes action to manage the coronavirus in our communities.

“We are aware of an outbreak at Dukes Court Care Home and are providing residents and staff with appropriate guidance and support. We are working with the local public health team, Public Health England and Environmental Health colleagues and closely monitoring the situation.”

“We are not able to provide further specific details on the settings as we are subject to information governance regulations in order to protect the privacy of individuals and we are confident that this is a contained outbreak and does not pose a threat to the wider community.”

Latest figures (up until the middle of last week) say there have been more than 56,560 vaccinations of the high priority groups in Northamptonshire, with vaccinations now starting for the under eighties.

A mass vaccination centre opened in Moulton Park, Northampton, this week which the health bosses say will ‘significantly increase’ capacity. A roving vaccination team has been visiting care homes to give out the first doses. However it is unclear whether it was this team or another one that went into Dukes Court Care Home. Avery Healthcare says the visit was organised by the Queensway Medical Centre.

There have been 236 recorded Covid deaths in Northamptonshire care homes since the pandemic began last March. In the first wave there were outbreaks at more than 80 Northamptonshire care  homes before testing was routinely available for staff and residents. An outbreak at Temple Court in Kettering made national headlines. 

Currently there are 45 active care home outbreaks in the county, with 475 people testing Covid positive and the number has been rising in recent weeks.