The Government is today facing repeated calls to apologise after Boris Johnson yesterday said that “too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedure in the way that they could have”. The comments have been widely criticised by care leaders, unions and MPs as an attempt to shift the blame for the high death toll in care homes.
It has become common knowledge that care homes were severely under-equipped and under-prepared to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. With over 20,000 care home residents said to have died from the virus, criticism towards the Government has been centred on the lack of PPE and a failure to regularly test care home staff.
Bojo’s comments are doubly insulting considering Matt Hancock proudly stated in May that the Government had cast a “protective ring” around care homes. In reality, before this fictional ‘ring’ was thrown, the Government’s own procedure was to transfer roughly 25,000 people from hospitals to care homes in order to free up bed capacity. Further still, as early as May it had become clear that temporary care workers, often needed in multiple homes to cope with demand, were unwittingly transmitting Covid-19 between care homes.
Neither the patients coming from hospitals nor care home staff were tested and care homes subsequently payed a heavy price.
Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, labelled the Prime Minister’s comments a “huge slap in the face” to those care workers who look after millions of vulnerable people. Mark Adams, the chief executive of Community Integrated Care, described them as “clumsy and cowardly”. The Government has maintained that the Prime Minister was “not blaming care homes”, but he did utter those words so, er, what exactly did he mean?
The intended purpose of Johnson’s comments seem a little unclear to me. If I was to hazard a guess, I’d suggest this was perhaps part of a broader strategy to shift any blame regarding Covid-19 away from the Government in order to save their own skin. In my opinion, much of the Government’s strategy these last few months has been to lay the onus on us; to use our “common sense” so as to draw any blame away from themselves when the inevitable regional upticks or second waves occur. In a similar vein, Johnson’s comments seek to retract the draw bridge, in an attempt to distance the Government from any involvement in the care home crisis. I fear that care homes are simply the first in a long line of people who will be blamed in an attempt to deflect and distract from Johnson and this Government’s failings.
It’s important to remember that despite all the Government’s short comings, care home staff continued without suitable PPE or proper testing, while the sector itself has managed without proper funding. The Prime Minister should be praising their heroic efforts, not accusing them of failing to follow the correct procedure.