A STUDY involving care homes in Gwent has indicated that the risk of a coronavirus outbreak increased if they had received a discharged hospital patient in the two weeks before it happened.

But the findings also suggest that outbreaks were more likely in larger homes, and in those with nursing and specialist dementia care provision.

Further analysis of discharge and outbreak figures across Wales is planned - but the initial findings have been welcomed by the body representing hundreds of independent care providers in Wales.

The Public Health Wales (PHW) study aimed to determine if adult care homes reporting a coronavirus outbreak were more likely to have received a patient discharged from hospital in the previous 14 days.

Discharges from Gwent hospitals and outbreaks in the area’s care homes reported to PHW were analysed, and the risk of outbreaks in periods following a discharge was compared with the risk in other periods. 

An outbreak was classed as one positive lab result for coronavirus.

Study numbers were small - 62 outbreaks among 170 care homes - but a report published by the Welsh Government-published report states that “initial findings indicate that the risk of outbreaks did increase following discharges - with 1.18 outbreaks per 100 days follow up in those with an admission discharge to a care home, compared to 0.34 per 100 days in those without a discharge to a care home.

“However, when adjusting for the size of the home and type of resident and care provided, this effect did not persist - there was no additional frequency in the number of outbreaks occurring in care homes following discharges when compared to no discharges.

“Therefore, care home size and type of care provided may be important considerations. Outbreaks were more likely in larger homes, and those with nursing and specialist dementia care provision.

“Further analysis of discharge and outbreak data across Wales, and adjustment for Covid-19 incidence over time, is planned.”

The study findings are consistent with others, including one by Edinburgh University which also found that larger care homes had a higher risk of outbreaks.

“We’re very pleased to see that such a careful analysis has been done because it’s vital that we understand what has happened in our care homes in order to prevent infection in any second wave,” said Mary Wimbury, Mary Wimbury, chief executive of Care Forum Wales, which represents more than 450 independent care providers.

“I’m interested that they focused on the first 100 days following a patient’s discharge to a care home because outbreaks do usually happen quite rapidly if that patient was carrying the virus.

“According to Public Health Wales there is a 14-day incubation period and so after 28 days you are unlikely to see an outbreak caused by that discharged patient.

“We look forward to seeing further detail on this”