Less than a week after announcing his Government was “finalising plans” to fix aged care funding, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has landed himself in hot water after appearing to blame providers for the sector’s estimated 20,000 death toll.
Speaking during a visit to Yorkshire, Mr Johnson said the pandemic had shown the need to “make sure we look after people better who are in social care”.
“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,” he added. “Most important is to fund them properly … but we will also be looking at ways to make sure the care sector long term is properly organised and supported.”
The comments prompted criticism from both peak bodies and the Opposition.
“Despite the fact PPE was diverted, despite the fact we didn’t have testing in our services, despite the fact they’ve not put any money into our sector, it has worked its socks off, and it’s a huge disappointment to hear the leader of our country say what he’d said,” Nadra Ahmed, the chair of the National Care Association, told The Guardian.
The UK government has previously claimed to have “thrown a protective ring around care homes”, but studies have shown staff transferred the virus between homes at the peak of the pandemic with no guidance from the Government on restricting staff movements.
Around 25,000 hospital patients were also discharged into homes without being tested for coronavirus, according to official reports.
A plan to lock down all aged care homes, with staff moving into homes for four weeks, by health authorities was also overruled the Government for being too radical.
A Government spokesman later clarified the PM’s comments, saying he was not blaming care homes and they “have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances”.
“The PM was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time,” he added.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics figures show there have 66,112 deaths of care home residents since the start of the pandemic up until 12 June – almost a month ago.
Of these, 19,394 were related to COVID-19 or 29.3% of all aged care resident deaths.