Socialist Worker

Care homes ‘managed death’ in first wave of virus

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2725

 Care homes were at the centre of coronavirus

Care homes were at the centre of coronavirus (Pic: Wikimedia/Creative Commons )


The full horror wreaked upon care homes during coronavirus has been revealed by a new Amnesty International report. 

The human rights charity blasted the Tory government as “directly responsible” for the way coronavirus ripped through residential social care facilities in the spring.

The first wave of Covid-19 was devastating for residents—and tens of thousands of them perished of the disease.

Amnesty’s latest report, seen by the Mail on Sunday newspaper, says a host of government policies knowingly put 400,000 residents in danger.

Some 18,562 deaths have been recorded as due to Covid-19. But the real figure is much higher—some 28,186 more deaths than normal occurred in care homes over a period of three months this year. 

Amnesty is demanding an ­immediate independent public inquiry, a process where Tory health secretary Matt Hancock would have to explain his disastrous decisions. 

The report, called As If They Were Expendable, shows how care home residents were refused medical ­treatment despite beds being ­available in hospitals. 

One Yorkshire care home manager tried to get a resident into hospital in March. He said he was told the resident was “at the end of his life anyway, so we’re not going to send an ambulance”. 

The investigation found care home residents were prevented from receiving potentially lifesaving care because health bosses wanted to “protect the NHS” and avoid images of overflowing hospital departments.

Discharge 

On 17 March, NHS England told hospitals to urgently discharge Covid‑19 patients into care homes.

One facility manager said residents were discharged so quickly they arrived “without teeth or glasses”.

Care home workers have said that local health bosses put pressure on them to get local doctors to sign “do not resuscitate” orders (DNARs) for patients. 

Coronavirus death toll is far higher than Tories announced
Coronavirus death toll is far higher than Tories announced
  Read More

Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove, said care homes in his constituency were issuing DNAR notices “en masse”, saying that in one home, 16 of the 26 residents signed DNARs under instruction from a GP.

Yet the crisis continues, as a new surge of infections begins to filter through residential social care. 

Rates are rising, the testing regime is failing and there isn’t enough space for residents to self-isolate if they test positive.  

Information from care home ­providers has cast doubt on Public Health England’s (PHE) official infection figures. 

HC-One, Britain’s largest ­provider, said 20 of its homes had suffered ­outbreaks in the last fortnight. In just one week, it recorded new ­outbreaks in a dozen homes, equivalent to 4 percent of its facilities. 

Yet PHE claims that, in the same period, just 1 percent of homes were suffering outbreaks.

Workers and residents are left in danger because of the Tory ­government’s failure to roll out a ­reliable testing regime. 

Ministers should be held to account for their series of failures. 


Flu vaccine shortage

Millions of vulnerable people are facing a terrifying winter as they struggle to get flu vaccines that could mean the difference between life and death.

A national shortage of the flu vaccine means stocks are running dangerously low and people are being advised it could take several weeks until they get a jab.

Health secretary Matt Hancock promised that 30 million people would be able to get the flu vaccine for free this year. 

But like so many Tory promises, the reality is very different.

People over 65 years old, pregnant women and those with serious long-term illnesses are offered the flu vaccine for free. 

That’s because they have a higher risk of complications from the virus.

Hancock said the free vaccination programme would be expanded to include people between the ages of 50 and 64.

But there is a 15 million vaccine shortfall.

The vaccine is usually administered at chemists or GP surgeries. Many pharmacists—including Lloyds and Boots—are refusing to book flu vaccine appointments.

The failure to push forward a faster programme of vaccination development and production show another way that the Tories are gambling with our lives.


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