Published On: Tue, Apr 28th, 2020

Jenny Jones: 2,000 care home deaths in one week – that’s a national scandal

Two thousand deaths in one week in the UK’s care homes from Covid-19 is a national scandal.

Most were clearly preventable if we had protected these people properly and the government needs to put in place an immediate plan to stop this slaughter.

While some mistakes have now been rectified, this is far from being the watertight approach we need during the coming months, so that the elderly or severely disabled are protected until a vaccine has been developed.

These care homes may not come out of lockdown for almost a year and the government should be planning accordingly.

Some things have shifted in recent weeks. The government have finally stopped putting hospital out-patients into care homes without testing.

There is a dedicated phone line if the care home is running short of PPE. However, that still doesn’t guarantee that you will get all that you need.

Also, the failure to quickly test everyone with symptoms to identify the disease and then carry out a track and trace within the care home is still a major problem.

Ministers have focused on hospital beds and hospital deaths – the figures they talked about at the daily press conference – and missed the huge problem in care homes.

Despite the promise to treat care homes as part of the front line in tackling this disease, the whole sector has continued to be  neglected.

There is no doubt that these figures are a huge under-estimate of the true scale of Covid-19 deaths in the community, but an obvious question is why 2,000 people didn’t make it to hospital to get medical attention in the week 10-17th April?

Of-course I understand that many would not have survived even if they did get put into intensive care, but would they all have died?

Some elderly patients have survived Covid19. Whose choice was it that so many didn’t go to hospital?

The government was behind the mass send out of Do Not Resuscitate Notices to the elderly and disabled.

Most care homes issued them to everyone in their care and I’m sure that most GPs had the difficult and personal conversations with their patients and their relatives.

But what message did this send out? Was the impact of this to stop people from going to hospital and overwhelming the NHS?

The government has seen success in terms of the new Nightingale Hospital, the spare capacity of its ventilators and intensive bed wards.

Care Homes are not hospices, yet at least 5000 people died without going near the NHS provision that might have saved their life?

The government guidance on the use of protective equipment by carers is still weak and it reflects a need to ration PPE, rather than minimising risk.

Officially, masks and gloves are only worn by carers when dealing with the most vulnerable patients who have existing respiratory conditions, or cancer.

That leaves the bulk of the elderly and disabled unprotected, except in the numerous care homes and home care situations where the carers go beyond the official guidance.

We need a national care service that recognises the vital role that carers are playing by paying them better.

We need a massive injection of cash into the private care home sector in order to keep it going for the coming year. We need to send out a clear message that the hospitals are open for everyone who needs them.

Finally, we need to recognise exceptional carers as the heroes they are. I think that the carers and managers who are taking turns self-isolating at care homes are amazing and such people need all the support we can give them.

Jenny Jones is a Green Party member of the House of Lords

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