The government has come under fire for its lack of planning and slow response to protecting care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The criticism comes with the latest estimates suggesting care homes now account for around a sixth of deaths in England and Wales.
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England (pictured), said social care had not been a priority for government during the crisis, adding: “Clearly we weren’t at the centre of this pandemic. So I just think the government needs to understand that, if they knew in January we were the high-risk area, and it’s quite clear from the very start of this that people with long-term and underlying health conditions were the most vulnerable, where every single person in a care home falls into that category, why wasn’t the response quicker?”
Speaking during a LaingBuisson webinar last week, Care UK chair, Mike Parish, said there had been little evidence of government planning on protecting care homes from the pandemic.
“We were leading the way as a sector in March in terms of stopping visitors,” Mike said. “There was no indication they [the government] had put awareness into action.”
Mike said that due to its slow response to the pandemic, the government had been playing “catch-up” ever since.
Speaking last week, meanwhile, Sam Monaghan, CEO of MHA, said it had been 43 days from lockdown and care home residents and staff had not received the enhanced level of protection they required.
“At MHA our nursing dementia homes have been by far the worst hit in terms of the scale of the outbreaks and the loss of residents and yet no consideration has been given to prioritising tests for those settings, nor the suitability of administering tests to our residents living with dementia,” Sam said.
“This cannot surely be beyond the ability of our policymakers, scientists and government. We said weeks ago that we were being treated as the poor relations to the NHS and the situation, despite our protestations, has not improved.”
Sam said that while new testing measures issued by the government were “laudable”, he said execution of the plans remained “completely shambolic”.
“We cannot and will not accept assumptions that higher rates of death in care homes is somehow inevitable,” Sam said. “With the right support, it isn’t.”
In response, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson outlined the measures the government had taken to support care homes, including: testing all residents and staff; ensuring patients discharged from hospital are tested before entering care homes; supporting homes with news ways of ordering PPE, including through direct dispatches via Royal Mail, a 24/7 hotline and a new pilot website; deploying NHS and student nurses to support the social care sector; expanding the workforce by 20,000 through a new recruitment campaign; providing new guidance on infection control; and advice from the CQC for homes reporting deaths.