Care England chief: Patients with Covid-19 symptoms were discharged back into care homes

19 May 2020, 15:27

By Ewan Somerville

A care homes chief has criticised the Government over its response to the coronavirus crisis as new figures showed more than 11,000 elderly residents have died from the virus.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, delivered scathing remarks aimed at ministers for focusing on the NHS while infected patients were allowed back into care homes, as pressure mounts on Number 10 over its handling of the sector.

It came as official figures published on Tuesday morning suggested more than 11,600 residents have died after contracting Covid-19, about a quarter of the total.

Professor Martin Green said patients with covid-19 symptoms had been sent back into care homes
Professor Martin Green said patients with covid-19 symptoms had been sent back into care homes. Picture: PA

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has insisted a “protective ring” was thrown around care homes and that two-thirds have seen no outbreak.

But Prof Green told the Health and Social Care Committee that testing results had been lost and staff were waiting eight to 10 days to find out if they are infected, warning the failures could now mean care homes “go under”.

He called for a “forensic examination” to prevent a repeat of the crisis and said care homes should have been the focus from the outset.

“What we saw at the start was a focus on the NHS which meant care homes often had their medical support from the NHS withdrawn. We also had the disruption of our supply chains for PPE (personal protective equipment),” he told MPs.

“We also saw people being discharged from hospital when we didn’t have the testing regime up and running.

“So despite what’s been said, there were cases of people who either didn’t have a Covid-19 status, or who were symptomatic, who were discharged into care homes.

“Now given that care homes are full of people with underlying health conditions, I think we should’ve looked at focusing on where the people at most risk were, rather than thinking about a particular organisation.”

The claims were backed by James Bullion, from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, who said lack of PPE and testing was being felt in the sector.

"The care workforce is 1.6 million. We are nowhere near the level of testing that is required,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Dixon, of the Health Foundation think tank, said action by the government had come "too late".

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Cross-party MPs also heard evidence of how Hong Kong has not had a single care home death after adopting a policy of quarantining patients leaving hospital for three months. Meanwhile, Germany has recorded 3,000 deaths in care homes.

New Office for National Statistics data suggests that 11,600 people have died in care homes since the pandemic began.

But they showed that fatalities are falling, with 1,940 care home deaths linked to coronavirus in the week to 8 May, down from 2,800 in the previous seven days.

A Downing Street spokesman said "no care home should be forced to take back recovering coronavirus patients” and that hospital patients were now being tested before being sent back to care homes.