Tory claims to have thrown a “protective ring around” care homes are in tatters after a report by the Care Quality Commission.
Nearly half were judged to be inadequate or in need of improvement—with mistakes at several leading to fatal outbreaks of Covid-19.
Some of the worst findings were discovered by reviewing CCTV footage from the homes. It showed protective PPE equipment being wrongly used on 63 occasions in a single home and infected residents mixing in communal areas with those free of Covid-19.
The report also detailed serious staff shortages and a case of a care home manager continuing to work even after showing coronavirus symptoms.
The result of these lapses was thousands of avoidable deaths.
In the week ending 22 January, 2,364 care home residents died with Covid-19 on their death certificate—the highest level since last May.
The firm Leicester County Care was among a number of chains that had multiple homes singled out for criticism. It made a post-tax profit of over £2.2 million last year.
But at its Curtis Weston House in Leicestershire inspectors found a series of failings. They included “no deep cleaning of bedrooms of Covid-19 positive people”, ineffective alcohol-free hand sanitiser in use and staff not always having ready access to PPE.
Care home bosses have long pleaded that they cannot afford to pay decent wages, despite being desperately short of workers.
They have demanded ever more money to make homes safe and to allow patients discharged from hospital with Covid-19 to return to their homes.
But the scandal of the most recent wave of infections shows that cash from councils and government has simply helped to line shareholders’ pockets.
It’s more proof, if it were ever needed, that private firms cannot be trusted with the lives of the most vulnerable people.
Successive governments, both Labour and Tory, have pledged to “deal with the crisis” in social care but have backed away from taking action.
The only way to make care homes safe is for them to be brought back into the public sector. And workers should be paid at decent rates and with the same terms and conditions as the NHS.
There needs to be a massive investment in new, safer and more engaging homes—and the rich should pay for it.