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Care homes "thrown to the wolves"

July 31, 2020 9:30 AM
Originally published by Babergh South Suffolk Liberal Democrats
fapv (Thanks to Eva Blue for sharing their work on Unsplash.)The cross party Public Accounts committee has issued a short but damning report of the Governments handling of the social care sector in the early stages of the pandemic. You can read the full report here https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmpubacc/405/405.pdf
It said the decision to discharge around 25,000 patients from NHS hospitals into care homes - without first testing them - was "an appalling error" in the initial weeks of the outbreak. Ministers were accused of a "slow, inconsistent and at times negligent" approach to social care during the coronavirus pandemic that has exposed years of delayed reforms to the sector.

On personal protective equipment for social care staff, the committee chair Meg Hillier said that failure to provide kit for workers and volunteers who risked their lives through the first peak of Covid-19 was "a sad, low moment in our national response".

"Our care homes were effectively thrown to the wolves, and the virus has ravaged some of them," she added.

The committee said the pandemic had highlighted the "tragic impact" of successive governments delaying widespread reform of the sector and treating social care as the NHS's "poor relation". "Years of inattention, funding cuts and delayed reforms have been compounded by the government's slow, inconsistent and, at times, negligent approach to giving the sector the support it needed during the pandemic.

The report said that "shockingly" the government's policy of not testing all patients for Covid-19 before discharging them into care homes continued until 15 April, when the government announced everyone would be tested prior to being discharged and regardless of symptoms.

Going forward, the committee urged the government to prepare for a potential second wave, and said no one would have expected ministers to get every decision right during the initial months of the pandemic. "Rather than seeking to give the impression that it has done so, the government urgently needs to reflect, acknowledge its mistakes, and learn from them as well as from what has worked," the report added.

Commenting on the report which condemns the "slow, inconsistent and at times negligent approach" to the social care sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, Liberal Democrat MP and member of the committee Sarah Olney said:

The coronavirus has left people worried about their future and mourning loved ones. While we have relied on frontline staff to protect us, the Government's PPE shortages seriously let NHS and care workers down.

People deserve better. Ministers must read and act on this report before it is too late to prepare for a second wave. That means rapidly upscaling the strategy to test, trace and isolate every case of coronavirus to keep people safe and prevent new surges.

To improve public confidence, the Prime Minister must set out a timetable for the independent inquiry into the Government's actions. With that, we can ensure the same mistakes never happen again.