Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing widespread anger from professionals and the general public after making allegations that care homes failed to follow correct procedures to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Speaking to reporters yesterday during a visit to Yorkshire, Johnson said: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lessons the whole time.”
Despite a Number 10 spokesperson and business secretary Alok Sharma attempting to row back on Johnson’s comments by alleging he meant that nobody knew what the correct procedures were, operators, advisors and representatives queued up to pour scorn on what is widely viewed as an attempt to deflect blame for nearly 20,000 deaths that have taken place in the sector.
David Crabtree, the owner of two care homes in West Yorkshire, both rated Good by the CQC, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that Johnson had “picked the wrong fight with the wrong people” before accusing the government of moving patients from the NHS to care homes with no safeguards in place.
“There was a deliberate policy to discharge anybody and everybody into care homes with or without Covid for the sake of a two bob test,” he said, adding: “Mr Johnson, you are responsible, the paper trail leads all the way back to you. You are despicable for saying such a thing against care staff.”
Paul Ridout of Ridout’s solicitors which specialises in advising the sector on regulatory and other issues called Johnson’s remarks “a disgrace”.
“It is clear that neither he nor his government nor the relevant civil service have a clue as to how care homes operate and the challenges they face,” he said. “Care homes have had to make tough and unpopular decisions to protect and support their residents and their staff. One of those challenges was misleading advice from the Government encouraging the discharge of patients without negative COVID test results into care homes to relieve pressure on the NHS but exposing the most dependent in care homes and the dedicated staff looking after them to greater danger.
“It is high time Government faced up to the very real problems posed in the management of care in care homes and where those residents are supported by public funds by woefully inadequate finance.”
Meanwhile, members of the public have taken to social media to express outrage at Johnson’s remarks.
A relative tweeted: “I am indebted to my mum’s care home. They locked the doors early and were under immense pressure to take people who had not been tested. Staff and residents have only recently been tested. They followed their own procedure. They are not to blame.”
And an NHS nurse said: “This is really not OK!! 100% not okay. The workers in care homes have also risked their lives in an attempt to care for their clients – some even living in for many weeks.”
Despite the furore generated by Johnson’s intervention, some expressed hope that the government is planning much-needed care sector reform.
Ian Kessler, a professor on Public Policy & Management at King’s Business School, said: “As the initial terror of this pandemic begins to subside, it feels like the right moment to start talking about how to rebuild and re-regulate our health and social care system. It is not enough to just clap for our carers, it’s time to make meaningful changes to the working practices that have seen them undervalued and dismissed for far too long”.