About the research:
Registered domiciliary care workers support people to live independently at home. In 2020, mixed evidence emerged about how COVID-19 may impact infection and mortality for care workers due to the pandemic.
The OSCAR study used anonymised health records for 15,727 registered domiciliary care workers in Wales to describe health outcomes in the first year of the pandemic. Interviews with care workers explored how the job role may contribute to risks of exposure to COVID-19 and of key health outcomes. PCR-confirmed infection rates in the first full year of the pandemic were 12% although lower in males (9%) than for females (12%). Differences in infection rate by characteristics such as geographical location and employer - for example, 13% in urban settings and 9% in rural settings - require further assessment to determine whether these may be explained by differences in background rates in the general population. Fewer than 2% of care workers experienced serious respiratory infections not otherwise identified as COVID-19. However, 28% of care workers received care for mental health. Large differences were observed in rates of mental ill health, for example between males (20%) and females (29%), and between workers from different health board regions (e.g. 22% in Hywel Dda and 33% in Cwm Taf Morgannwg). The extent to which these represent pre-pandemic rates overall and how they compare to the broader community will be explored in our remaining work.
Our interviews with 24 care workers identified key risk areas, for example, access to and use of PPE, unrestricted presence and behaviours of others within client homes, variable employer support, and changes to employment role/status. Some risks were transitional with initial difficulties at pandemic onset, but with subsequent improvements. Some risks remained ongoing (i.e. need for tailored training) or with scope for further optimisation. The personal burden upon care workers working through the pandemic was apparent, as was the enhanced value
and commitment to clients.