Coronavirus: PM refuses to apologise for 'slap in the face' comments on care homes

7 July 2020, 15:50

Boris Johnson has been criticised for saying care homes 'didn't really follow the procedures' during the pandemis
Boris Johnson has been criticised for saying care homes 'didn't really follow the procedures' during the pandemis. Picture: PA
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

Boris Johnson has refused to apologise for heavily criticised comments he made to suggest that the conduct of care homes was below par during the pandemic.

The prime minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing that Mr Johnson thought care homes had done "a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances".

He added: "The prime minister was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time."

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It comes after Mr Johnson said on Monday that he thought "too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures," sparking criticism nationwide.

But when asked if he would like to apologise or retract the comment on Tuesday, his spokesman reiterated: "As I've just set out, the PM thinks that throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances."

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These comments, according to Independent Care Group chairman Mike Padgham, served as a "real slap in the face" for care workers who have been "amazing, selfless and brave" during the coronavirus outbreak.

He added: "We hope he will reflect on those comments and see the incredible work the care sector has done in the recent months to care for older and vulnerable people, with late and conflicting advice and poor support in terms of personal protective equipment and testing during this awful pandemic."

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A little over 55,000 people have died in the UK where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, which includes suspected cases.

But as daily case numbers and deaths begin to fall, there appears to also be hopeful news from care homes, where the number of deaths in this environment was lower than the five-year average in the week to 26 June.

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Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, praised care home staff for doing an "amazing job" during the outbreak, highlighting that this was often done under "incredible pressure" with "inadequate PPE and little if any testing".

Referring back to Mr Johnson's comments, she said: "The prime minister's comments risk undermining the key role played during the pandemic by social care services, which is many places has been nothing short of heroic, and has doubtless saved many lives.

"A crisis will always shine a light on weaknesses and vulnerabilities and the issues social care continue to face are indicative of continued, long-term neglect by successive governments and a failure to fully fund the sector.

"There have been persistent warnings from across the NHS and care sector that investment and reform is urgently needed and the pandemic has exposed how desperately this is now needed."