Laura Sharman 12 June 2020

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

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

Ms Hillier said: ’Shockingly, the Government squandered the last opportunity to add to the central PPE stockpile, even after the NHS had gone to the highest level of alert.

’Care homes were at the back of the queue for both PPE 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.'

The report showed that action taken by the NHS to increase capacity meant there were enough beds and respiratory support at the peak of the outbreak. This meant the number of Covid-19 patients never exceeded the number of beds available.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson 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 a result 60% of care homes have had no outbreak at all, according to the latest PHE statistics.'

The spokesperson added that over one million test kits have been provided to nearly 9,000 care homes.

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