Boris Johnson: Care home rules need to be 'toughened up'

16 September 2020, 14:50 | Updated: 16 September 2020, 14:51

By Maddie Goodfellow

Boris Johnson has expressed concerns about Covid-19 infection rates in care homes, as he prepared to announce a "toughening up" of rules governing care home worker movement.

During Prime Minister's Questions, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner challenged the Prime Minister to give the social care sector the funding it needs to "get through this looming winter crisis".

Mr Johnson replied at Prime Minister's Questions: "We are concerned about the rates of infection in care homes, clearly they've come down massively since we instituted the £600 million care home action plan.

"Tomorrow we will be announcing a further winter care home action plan and it won't surprise her to know that we want to see a toughening up of the rules governing the movement of workers from one care home to another, we want to make sure we protect care homes from further infections."

Ms Rayner said Boris Johnson once earned £2,300 an hour, asking: "So can the Prime Minister tell us what is the average hourly rate for a care worker in this country?"

The Prime Minister said he understood a negative test had been returned for Sir Keir's child, adding: "I don't know why he is not here."

Mr Johnson defended the speed of testing but did not offer an answer on the average hourly rate, to which Ms Rayner said: "The whole country would have seen that the Prime Minister doesn't know how much a care worker earns because that was my question - the shameful fact is the average wage in social care is barely more than £8 an hour."

Ms Rayner also called on the Prime Minister to "get some skates on" in delivering testing and PPE to care homes ahead of winter.

She said: "I must say to the Prime Minister get some skates on it. Those care workers are still not getting the PPE they need, they're still not getting the testing they need.

"So I urge the Prime Minister to get on top of this problem now before the winter crisis hits.

"The Prime Minister has put his faith in Operation Moonshot, but meanwhile on planet Earth there are no NHS tests available for several high-infection areas."

She asked: "Can the Prime Minister confirm yes or no, do all care homes in this country have weekly tests?"

Boris Johnson replied: "Yes, to the best of my knowledge care homes in this country... should get weekly tests for all staff members and tests every 28 days for those who are in the care homes, the residents in the care homes."

Angela Rayner replied: "I heard what the Prime Minister had to say, but I have to say to him yesterday (Tuesday) the chief executive of Care England said 'we were promised weekly testing for staff, that has not been delivered'.

"Time and time again he makes promises then breaks those promises. In June he told this House 'I can undertake now to get all tests turned in 24 hours by the end of June'.

"They've had six months to get this right and yet the Prime Minister still can't deliver on his promises.

"The Health Secretary said yesterday it would take weeks to sort this situation out.

"We don't have weeks."

Boris Johnson also urged only those who need a test to get one.

Responding to Labour's Angela Rayner he said: "The British people, quite understandably, are responding to that system, with a huge, huge surge in demand.

"And so it's very important that everybody follows the guidance about when they should be getting a test."

Angela Rayner also asked Boris Johnson to commit to ensuring that no woman is forced to give birth alone due to coronavirus.

Ms Rayner said: "We've heard of relatives dying alone in care homes and people not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones. We've also heard from mothers who have had to give birth without the support of their partners or their family.

"The Health Secretary yesterday said that the new guidance had been issued, but even under that new guidance many birth partners will not be allowed to join until that moment of established labour, leaving women enduring difficult labours or even worse, traumatic and devastating miscarriages alone without support.

"Will the Prime Minister agree to meet with me and my honourable friends and work with us to ensure that no woman is forced to give birth without the support that they need?"

Mr Johnson replied: "I totally agree that birth partners should be able to attend the birth, that's why we changed the guidance in the way that we did.

"But of course I'm very happy to encourage co-operation between her and my right honourable friends in the Health Department to take the matter forward."