Calls for care homes inquiry intensify as death toll hits highs of last spring | UK | News (Reports)

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Some 2,505 resident deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales were registered in the week to January 29 – the highest since the week to May 1 last year. A total of 35,720 care home residents in England and Wales have now had the virus recorded on their death certificate, the Office for National Statistics found. The desperate numbers have seen campaigners write to the Prime Minister. In their letter, they demand an independent public inquiry into a “shortsighted, stupid” decision that saw elderly Covid-infected people transferred from hospitals into care homes.

Jayne Connery, founder of Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, and the National Pensioners Convention have now released their letters exclusively to the Daily Express.

Ms Connery said: “The current heartbreaking scandal of rationed care home visits can be directly traced back to that shortsighted and stupid decision to export the virus into care homes.

“Our letter tells Boris Johnson that, from the start of the pandemic, we advised that one nominated family member could be treated as a key worker and allowed to assist in a loved one’s care.

“We see absolutely no reason why this couldn’t have happened and we call for a change in Government guidelines to have a policy in place of allowing this to happen now.

“We’re calling for a public inquiry into the handling of the crisis in care homes. This error of judgment on the Government’s part is still continuing and our aim is to ensure it never happens again.”

 

Jan Shortt, general secretary of the NPC, has also called for an inquiry in a letter to the PM.

She wrote: “The citizens of the UK are entitled to understand the missed opportunities, delays, poor decision-making, confusing messages and lessons not learned, that have contributed to a staggering figure of losses.

“The ‘ring of steel’ you said would be put around care homes to protect our oldest and most vulnerable was nothing of the kind.

“The decision to discharge patients from hospitals into care homes without a negative test proved disastrous for both care home residents and those who care for them.

“Over a quarter of the 100,000 deaths are placed as being in care homes.” The demand for an investigation into the handling of care homes was also backed up by a legal expert.

Public inquiry specialist lawyer Kim Harrison, of Slater and Gordon, told us: “While we mourn all of those who have died, we have a responsibility as a society to reflect on what has gone wrong and to analyse and plan to prevent such a tragedy occurring again.

Jan Shortt

General secretary of the NPC Jan Shortt has called for an inquiry in a letter to the PM (Image: NC)

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“Some of the most important issues to consider are the discharge of elderly people infected with Covid from hospitals into care homes, and the isolation of elderly people from their loved ones during this time.”

Mike Padgham, chair of the social care organisation The Independent Care Group, also welcomed calls for an inquiry He said: “I wholeheartedly support calls for an inquiry and hope it looks at the whole issue of the Government’s handling of Covid, including the involvement of social care.

“But I also believe this might be for another day, as care providers are still fighting the battle against Covid and we haven’t got it beaten yet.

“Those are alarming figures and are a tragic loss of loved ones. We cannot really look at inquiries while we are still trying to overcome this devastating pandemic.

“I would also be very anxious that any inquiry would give an excuse to further delay vital reform of the social care sector.

Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison says we have a responsibility as a society to reflect on what has gone wrong (Image: NC)

“Covid exposed a sector in crisis and in need of root and branch reform. That has to happen urgently, above all else.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “It’s clear that some important lessons have already been learned in the Government and the NHS about protecting care homes and their residents since the first, disastrous early months of the pandemic.

“But there does also need to be a formal process of inquiry, to seek to avoid anything like this ever happening again.

“There are several inquiry models to select from but what matters is that whichever is chosen is effective.

“It may well be that a start should be made later this year, while memories are still fresh and at a time, we hope, when the worst of the pandemic will be behind us.”

The letter from the CCV tells the PM how crucial care home visits are to residents and their families, who often play a part in their care.

It says: “Our workload has escalated as we walk the path with families who suffer deep anxiety and desperation after being stopped from visiting loved ones in care homes.

“These care partners would have visited loved ones in care homes every day to help stimulate and assist with their care.”

The letter finishes with a personal plea to Mr Johnson. It says: “Prime Minister, the devastation Covid has brought to our elderly community in care homes has been more than just the virus itself.

“It will leave a life-long negative effect on loving family members both young and old who have been stopped from being with loved ones. The guilt families say they now feel will become part of their lives as they try to move on.”

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