Campaigners have ramped up their demands for a public inquiry into Britain’s care home Covid crisis because deaths are still spiralling.
Coronavirus fatalities in care homes have hit the highest levels since May, official figures revealed yesterday. More than 2,500 residents had the virus mentioned on their death certificates in England and Wales over the seven days to January 29.
In the week ending May 1, 2020, 3,082 residents died with Covid-19, and a total of 3,679 were killed the week earlier at the outbreak’s peak.
This week’s tally took the total to 35,720 since the pandemic began — with care homes accounting for about a third of all deaths from the virus in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Care home deaths rose again in the second wave despite the Government’s promise to throw a ‘protective ring’ around the vulnerable residents and the introduction of regular swab testing for the elderly and their carers.
Care Campaign for the Vulnerable blasted the figures as a ‘heart-breaking scandal’ as they repeated their calls for Boris Johnson to launch a public inquiry into the toll.
In a letter sent to the Prime Minister, they warned the crisis would have a ‘life-long negative impact’ on younger family members, too, who say they feel guilty about being unable to visit their loved ones.
Care home deaths from the virus are expected to slow in the coming weeks after the Government said every resident who was eligible had been given their first dose of the vaccine, which should protect them from severe illness and death. But immunity does not kick in for several weeks.
Care Campaign for the Vulnerable today blasted the number of deaths in care homes – about a third of the UK total – as heartbreaking and called on Boris Johnson to launch an inquiry
Office for National Statistics data show that, although most Covid-19 deaths have been in hospitals (green bars), a large proportion have been in care homes (dark blue), where there are significantly fewer people – this shows they have higher rates of death per person
Some 2,505 care home residents died from the virus in the most recent week in all settings – which was almost a third of the total number of deaths from the disease in that week
Jayne Connery, who founded CCV to fight for justice for the sector, said their letter called on Mr Johnson to take action to protect the sector.
‘The current heart-breaking scandal of rationed care home visits can be directly traced back to that shortsighted and stupid decision to export the virus into care homes,’ she told the Daily Express.
CARE HOME STAFF LEFT WITHOUT PPE IN FIRST WAVE OF COVID
Care home staff were left without PPE during the first wave of Covid-19 as the government prioritised the NHS, MPs have said.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee heard the social care sector received just 10 per cent of the required PPE items between March and July last week – compared to 80 per cent in hospitals.
Overall both sectors experienced PPE shortages, with some forced to reuse single-use items as stocks ran ‘perilously low’.
The committee said care homes were only taken seriously after the high mortality rates became apparent.
Overall, the committee said frontline staff in both health and social care experienced shortages of PPE, with some forced to reuse single-use items as stocks ran ‘perilously low’.
Surveys by staff organisations found at least 30 per cent of care workers, doctors and nurses reported having insufficient PPE – even in high-risk settings.
‘Many workers at the front line in health and social care were put in the appalling situation of having to care for people with Covid-19 or suspected Covid-19 without sufficient PPE to protect themselves from infection,’ it said.
‘Our letter tells Boris Johnson that, from the start of the pandemic, we advised that one nominated family member could be treated as a key worker and allowed to assist in a loved one’s care.’
She added: ‘We’re calling for a public inquiry into the handling of the crisis in care homes.
‘This error of judgement on the Government’s part is still continuing and our aim is to ensure it never happens again.’
Their letter was immediately backed by other campaigners and charities working in the sector, who piled further pressure on the PM to investigate the spiking deaths in the sector.
Charity care home think-tank the NPC has also previously called for an inquiry into the handling of the crisis in care homes.
In its letter, also sent to the Prime Minister, general secretary Jan Shortt wrote: ‘The citizens of the UK are entitled to understand the missed opportunities, delays, poor decision-making, confusing messages and lessons not learned, that have contributed to the staggering figures of losses.
‘The “ring of steel” you said would be put around care homes to protect our oldest and most vulnerable was nothing of the kind.
‘The decision to discharge patients from hospitals into care homes without a negative test proved disastrous for both care home residents and those who care for them.’
Human rights group Amnesty International told MailOnline it suspects the resurgence of the virus in care homes this winter is linked to the Government’s controversial policy to continue to send Covid patients discharged from hospitals back into care homes.
Under the scheme, designed to free up hospital beds and protect the NHS, care homes which pass inspection and are deemed Covid-secure are asked to house infected patients.
Other experts have said that when transmission is allowed to spiral in the community – there were thought to be about 100,000 new infections in the UK every day last month – it will always trickle into care homes through asymptomatic staff and claim lives.
More than 20,000 care home residents died from Covid-19 during the first wave of the pandemic and experts say the decision to discharge thousands of untested hospital patients into care homes in spring was partly to blame. MPs accused the Government of throwing care homes ‘to the wolves’.
The Office for National Statistics said there were 1,705 deaths in English care homes reported to the Care Quality Commission in the seven days to January 2, up from 661 a fortnight ago
Statistics published at the end of January revealed that deaths in care homes had nearly tripled in a fortnight.
The ONS found 1,705 care home residents died from the virus in the week ending January 22, up from 661 a fortnight earlier.
It showed care home residents made up almost a third of all Covid-19 fatalities.
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, said: ‘We now have vaccines, and the Government is to be congratulated on the speed at which it is protecting the vulnerable.
‘But Covid-19 is not beaten yet and we must remain cautious and, on our guard, observing all the guidance and keeping everyone in care settings – care and nursing homes and those receiving care in their own homes – as safe as we can, alongside those who are caring for them.’
Chronic shortage of care homes ‘helped fuel Covid crisis in sector’
Britain’s ‘severe’ shortage of care homes helped fuel the Covid crisis in the sector, industry experts warned today.
Phil Bayliss, CEO of later living at Legal & General, claims Britain’s care homes would’ve fared better if the UK delivered more ‘US-style’ villages for retirees.
These include care facilities for residents which can be accessed as and when they are needed, reducing the number of visits to GP surgeries by residents by nearly 50 per cent.
He claimed the facilities can also be more effective in preventing the spread of infectious disease, using cutting-edge shielding techniques to protect residents, tackle old-age loneliness and ensure mental wellbeing.
However, unlike other developed nations, the UK is suffering a chronic shortage of retirement homes for older people.
Just 0.8 per cent of over-65s in Britain have an opportunity to live in a housing-with-care setting, whereas 5 per cent do in Australia and New Zealand.
Both countries have also suffered a much lower number of Covid-19 deaths among their elderly populations.
Legal & General is calling on the government to spearhead a national effort to build more suitable homes for older people.
The firm has also launched a new service which guarantees to buy older people’s homes for 95 per cent of their value to put against a new retirement home.