A shocking Panorama documentary has revealed how care homes were left exposed to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Forgotten Frontline documents how heroic care home staff and vulnerable residents at Community Integrated Care’s EachStep Blackley in Manchester and Pelham House in Folkestone were left exposed to the traumatic spread of coronavirus.
Pelham House owner Roger Waluube explained how he felt “bullied” into taking a resident back from hospital without being COVID-19 tested.
The resident was the first to catch the virus at the home which lost almost half of its 22 dementia patients within ten days.
Panorama revealed that 25,000 patients had been discharged to care homes in March with three-quarters of those released from 39 hospital trusts not being coronavirus tested. It adds that 71 out of 124 care providers felt pressurised into taking patients without a test. About 22,000 care home residents have died with COVID-19 during the pandemic.
The documentary showed Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock stating that the government had thrown a “protective ring” around care homes from the beginning of the crisis.
However, care homes were advised until 13 March by Public Health England that they were “very unlikely” to become infected.
The documentary revealed that by the time the government made testing available for all elderly care home residents and staff all but two of Pelham’s staff had tested positive as well as 80% of its staff.
Mark Adams, CEO of Community Integrated Care, said: “In March, we were seeing what was happening in care homes in Spain and Italy and it was terrifying. The writing was absolutely on the wall. We had no advice or guidance about what we should do.
“It makes me angry because nobody thought about care homes and what they were going to face until, if I’m brutal, the body count became so high they couldn’t ignore it.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, told CHP: “Last night Panorama showed the tragic impacts of COVID-19 on residences, their families and the fantastic staff who care for them.
“This must be the foundation for a new approach to social care, where staff are respected and rewarded as the true professionals they shown themselves to be throughout this crisis.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “It is completely wrong to suggest care homes were an afterthought. Throughout the pandemic we have been working closely with the sector and public health experts to put in place guidance and support for adult social care. We first published guidance in February and have since announced a raft of measures. Our help has meant almost 60% of England’s care homes have had no outbreak at all.”