Government coronavirus failures in social care continue to endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of service users and workers.
Over two months into lockdown, and four months after the first cases of Covid-19 were recorded internationally, many care facilities still don’t have the ability to test people for the disease.
The government now claims that it will take another three weeks before all care homes are offered tests—but in reality the wait could be much longer.
There’s confusion across the industry about which body is supposed to source and pay for testing equipment.
Public Health England, the Department for Health and Social Care and the Care Quality Commission have all refused responsibility at different points.
Although Tory health secretary Matt Hancock boasts that, “the performance on testing has been unbelievably positive” care home bosses are struggling to get hold of this vital kit.
Matthew Nutt is the managing director of care home provider Accurocare, and said, “It’s been a complete system failure.”
“We don’t know when we are going to get test kits. The government’s plan to lift the lockdown says all homes will have testing by 6 June.
“It’s far too slow. How many more people have to die?
Once coronavirus hits a care home, it is very difficult to control its spread. And with social visits stopped at care homes, and services stretched to the bone, life under a pandemic is difficult for residents and workers alike.
That’s why care homes need urgent deliveries of testing kits, better Personal Protective Equipment and proper staffing levels.
Covid-19 has caused devastation in care homes, where Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that 10,000 people have died.
But the real figure could be over double that, claims a study from the London School of Economics.
It found that more than 22,000 care home residents in England and Wales could have died as a direct or indirect result of coronavirus.
The study has taken data directly from reports filed from individual care homes to the Care Quality Commission, the industry regulator.
Report authors Adelina Comas-Herrera and Jose-Luiz Fernandez said, “Data on deaths in care homes directly attributed to Covid-19 underestimate the impact of the pandemic on care home residents.
“This is because they do not take into account indirect mortality effects of the pandemic and/or because of problems with the identification of the disease as the cause of death.”
LSE academics argue that additional fatalities were caused by residents who didn’t receive health care for other ailments.
And an overstretched NHS, alongside fears about catching the virus are making people shy away from seeking urgent help.
The research said there were 19,938 “excess deaths” in care homes—the figure above the average number of deaths in the same weeks for the previous five years.
Some 8,310 of these were explicitly linked to Covid-19 and therefore included in the ONS statistics.
Much of this could have been avoided. Council social care directors in England warned the government two years ago, in a series of detailed reports, about care homes’ exposure to a pandemic, the Guardian newspaper has revealed.
They called for better supply plans for personal protective equipment—warning that “demand for PPE could rapidly outstrip supply”—plus improved infection control.
Ignoring such warnings, and starving the NHS of funds caused disaster. The Tories made a key decision as the pandemic spread to reduce pressure on hospitals by shifting older patients to care homes.
A recent Reuters news agency report said, “"According to several care home managers, a key route for infection was opened up by an NHS decision taken in mid-March, to transfer 15,000 patients out of hospitals and back into the community, including an unspecified number of patients to care homes.
“These were not only patients from general wards. They included some who had tested positive for COVID-19.”
On Thursday Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, told the BBC, "Here we were, suddenly left completely abandoned. And we understand the mantra that was about 'Save the NHS', but our concern was, at what cost was that going to happen?"
Meanwhile in Scotland the government has come under pressure after staff at the Highgate care home in Uddingston said that they had not been screened for the virus, despite a resident dying every day at the height of the outbreak in March.
Care home deaths made up 57 percent of all Covid-19 fatalities in Scotland last week,
Spending on adult social care is soaring across Britain during the pandemic—and local authorities are being left to pick up the bill.
They are paying private companies inflated rates to provide services—which should be brought back in house and run by councils.
Billions of pounds will need to be poured into adult social care to create a service that can provide a safe environment for residents and workers.