William Eichler 05 October 2020

Government ‘effectively abandoned’ care home residents to COVID-19, Amnesty says

Care home residents in England were ‘effectively abandoned’ by the Government in the early stages of the pandemic, human rights organisation says.

A new report from Amnesty International found that a series of ‘shockingly irresponsible’ Government decisions put tens of thousands of older people’s lives at risk and led to multiple violations of care home residents’ human rights.

Entitled As If Expendable: The UK Government’s Failure to Protect Older People in Care Homes during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the report says that between 2 March and 12 June 28,186 ‘excess deaths’ were recorded in care homes in England, with over 18,500 care home residents confirmed to have died with COVID-19 during this period.

Amnesty found that on 17 March, four days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the Government ordered the discharge of 25,000 patients from hospitals into care homes, including those infected or possibly infected with COVID-19.

On 2 April, the same day that the WHO confirmed the existence of pre-symptomatic cases of COVID-19, the Government reiterated its guidance for hospital discharge that ‘Negative tests are not required prior to transfers/admissions into the care home’, according to Amnesty’s report.

It also learnt that care home managers and staff were left without guidance and adequate levels of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and had no access to COVID-19 tests despite having to look after infected patients discharged from hospitals.

‘The Government made a series of shockingly irresponsible decisions which abandoned care home residents to die,’ said Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK.

‘Discharged without being tested, thousands of older people were sent to care homes at great risk to themselves and other residents and to staff.

‘The appalling death toll was entirely avoidable - it is a scandal of monumental proportions.’

Amnesty International called for an inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic.

‘As the country faces a second wave of coronavirus, we urgently need a full independent public inquiry into the care home scandal, so that lessons can be learned and lives protected, before any more lives are lost,’ said Ms Allen.

Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the Department of Health & Social Care said: ‘From the start of the pandemic we have been doing everything we can to ensure care home residents and staff are protected.

‘This includes testing all residents and staff, providing over 228 million items of PPE, ring-fencing over £1.1bn to prevent infections in care homes and making a further £3.7bn available to councils to address pressures caused by the pandemic – including in adult social care.’

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