LEAKED messages appear to prove that vulnerable care home residents were betrayed by the Government during the Covid-19 pandemic, the ICG said today.
Reports say that then Health Secretary Matt Hancock did not implement the advice of the Chief Medical Officer that everyone going into a care home should be tested for the virus.
Instead, he made it mandatory only for those going into a care home from hospital, the reports say.
The Independent Care Group today said that decision may have contributed to devastation in care homes during the pandemic.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “At face value, these messages seem to expose a tragic betrayal of those most vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We can only guess how many lives were lost because the spread of the virus in care and nursing homes was not prevented sooner.
“The cavalier attitude being taken towards care settings makes a nonsense of the claims that the Government was throwing “a protective ring” around care homes. It was doing anything but.”
The ICG believes the Government was slow to see the risk to care home residents in the first place.
“At the outset we were told we didn’t need to do anything differently,” Mr Padgham added. “Then we had the panic of people being discharged from over-run hospitals into care homes without testing and here we have the evidence that the health secretary ignored advice that would have helped.
“As ever, social care was badly let down and the care of the most vulnerable seriously betrayed. There are some very serious questions to be answered.”
Mr Padgham said the Government had to restore confidence in its handling of social care by providing the reform the sector urgently needs.
“Many care providers will be reading today’s reports and feeling once again that the Government doesn’t care about care,” Mr Padgham added. “I think the only way the Government can start to rebuild trust is to get on with the reform of care and help us to end the crisis which was made so much worse by the impact of the pandemic.”
Figures from CSI Market Intelligence last week revealed that 247 homes closed during 2022 whilst just 123 new ones opened. That left the sector with a net loss of 124 homes and, according to the report, a loss of 230 care beds.
“As we lose care providers more and more people will be joining the 2.6m people over 50 who Age UK report are living with unmet care needs,” Mr Padgham added.
”The Government surely has a moral responsibility to ensure there is adequate care, including enough publicly-funded beds and homecare, to look after our oldest and most vulnerable citizens.”
The ICG is calling for urgent reform of the care sector, including an immediate cash injection of £7bn extra a year to stabilise the situation.
It published its Five Pillars of Social Care Reform document last autumn, setting out what it believes are the actions required to save the sector.
The five pillars are:
- Ring fence a percentage of GDP to be spent on providing social care to those who already receive it and the 1.6m who can’t get it
- Create a unified National Care Service, incorporating health and social care
- Set a National Minimum Wage per hour for care staff on a par with NHS
- Set up an urgent social care task force to oversee reform
- Fix ‘fair price for care’ tariffs for things like care beds and homecare visits.