CARE homes may never return to ‘normal’ following the impact of coronavirus, with the sector facing uncertainty due to new testing regimes and altered public perceptions, according to a Monmouthshire council report.

The report looking at the impact of coronavirus on the county’s care homes says the sector is operating in “a period of uncertainty” as it looks towards a “new normal.”

The introduction of test, trace and protect, with all care home staff offered a weekly test for coronavirus, has also led to “an anxiety amongst care home operators”, it says.

“The immediacy of the response to someone testing positive and needing to leave a shift, alongside the potential impact of any further staff needing to isolate due to contact could prejudice operational viability,” the report says.

“Care home providers are naturally concerned about this possibility.”

Monmouthshire’s 18 care homes were faced with a “monumental challenge” to care for vulnerable residents “at a time of unprecedented anxiety about a deadly virus”, the report adds.

Challenges providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) initially caused anxiety and it became “very difficult to source”.

But since a weekly ordering and delivery system was introduced the system has “worked well” and offered “the necessary peace of mind.”

There were 27 deaths from coronavirus in care homes in Monmouthshire up to June 5.

This compares with 51 in Newport, 23 in Blaenau Gwent, 18 in Caerphilly and seven in Torfaen.

Care homes are now looking towards how they will operate in the future.

“Whilst we might now be on the ‘downward curve’ of the pandemic we do not know whether the more robust test, trace, protect regime will potentially expose previously asymptomatic cases and contacts and indeed, whether and when we might endure a second wave,” the report says.

“It is unlikely that we will go back to ‘normal’ at any time soon, if ever.

“In our ‘new normal’ there will inevitably be uncertainty amongst providers about the sustainability of the sector and there may be an altered public perception of care homes that may affect care management and admission decisions.”