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26 May 2023

Hot Take: A day of reckoning is due on Covid mismanagement

Hot Take: A day of reckoning is due on Covid mismanagement
With public inquiries on the Covid pandemic well under way in England and Scotland, Caring Times editor-in-chief, Lee Peart says it’s high time for a day of reckoning on the appalling neglect of care homes and the elderly during the crisis. 

A new independent website launched this week has begun to gather evidence from the Scottish public on their experiences of Covid as part of a public inquiry. 

With the inquiries in England and Scotland making painfully slow progress, there should be commitment lay out their initial findings by the end of this year. 

A recent report by the Nuffield Trust and London School of Economics made damning reading on how the first four months of the pandemic (February-May 2020) were mismanaged by government, cataloguing how a lack of visibility of social care, unclear accountability, insecure funding and poor workforce pay and conditions impacted its ability to implement protective measures in a timely way.

The report found the fragmented nature of the system and a shortage of civil servants working on social care contributed to confusion over who was responsible for decisions and implementation in the Covid response, which, for example, undermined the effective distribution of PPE and testing for care staff.

Key findings from the report included: the exclusion of the sector from pandemic planning exercises and failure to take action to address problems identified where the sector was included; lack of access to Covid testing and sick pay for staff when self-isolation policies were in place, especially for those on zero hours contracts; many providers of care, often small businesses, entering the pandemic with little or no cash reserves due to a lack of long-term funding support; and delays in emergency funding reaching the front line with extensions frequently announced with only weeks, days, or in one case, hours before the end of the scheme. 

We all witnessed for ourselves how care homes and care home staff were appallingly neglected and left on their own during the early days of the pandemic despite claims of a “ring of steel” of protection. 

Shockingly, 25,000 people were discharged by hospitals into care homes without being tested between March and April 2020. 

Former health secretary Matt Hancock recently faced allegations that he ignored medical advice to Covid test all care home entrants in April 2020 with government advice on testing not being published until August 2020. 

There were 43,256 deaths involving Covid-19 in care homes in England between March 2020 and January 2022, according to the ONS. Of these, over 17,000 died between April and August 2020 when the government was still dithering. 

A day of reckoning is long overdue on the shocking neglect of care homes and the elderly during the pandemic with people held to account and lessons learnt. 

Cast iron commitments should be made in law to ensure such neglect and wanton loss of life can never occur again. 


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