Care homes were an ‘afterthought’ during pandemic, watchdog warns

By Laura Sharman | 12 June 2020

A new report has warned that around 25,000 people were discharged from hospital into a care home without being tested for coronavirus at the height of the pandemic.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said it was impossible to know how many of these people had COVID-19 when they left hospital as it was only government policy to test those with symptoms at the time.

Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, said care home staff and residents had been treated as an ‘afterthought’ during the crisis.

Ms Hillier said: ’Care homes were at the back of the queue for both PPE [personal protective equipment] and testing so only got a small fraction of what they needed from central government.

'Residents and staff were an afterthought yet again: out of sight and out of mind, with devastating consequences.’

Unison assistant general secretary, Christina McAnea, added: 'This is a catalogue of errors and highlights, once again, a complete absence of planning or thought for social care.

'Discharging patients to care homes without testing was simply scandalous and accelerated the spread of the virus among an obviously high-risk group.'

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: 'This is an unprecedented global pandemic, and we have taken the right decisions at the right time based on the latest scientific and medical advice.

'Our plan throughout has been to save lives, protect our NHS and flatten the curve.

'We have been working tirelessly with the care sector throughout to reduce transmission and save lives, and, as a result, 60% of care homes have had no outbreak at all, according to the latest PHE [Public Health England] statistics.'

The spokesman added that more than one million test kits have now been provided to nearly 9,000 care homes.

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