The Care home scandal we cannot ignore

For a little while, I have been arguing that the one true scandal of the Coronavirus pandemic is that we allowed the virus to get into our care homes.  The one place where you did not want the virus to run riot was also the one place we could have protected.

I think that in so many of the other situations causing debate at the moment that either, it is too early and too presumptuous to say that our experience has been different from elsewhere and that we have to consider other long term factors, for example test and trace was always going to be a challenge here given our suspicion of state interference and monitoring.

However, as I argue here, there is a strong case that we should not have seen deaths in care homes and that we need a bit more curiosity to ask “why did this happen?”

Well, the issue is starting to get some proper attention at last. See this tweet thread by Andrew Neil.

The Care Home situation contributes significantly to the size of the UK’s experience of the crisis.  On the 12th May, there had been 9,700 deaths in Care Homes across the UK.[1] If the total death toll is over 40,000 then that means nearly a quarter have been in social care.  The percentages are higher still in  Scotland. Furthermore, those are the figures for those who died in care homes not all care home residents or workers that have died. Therefore the affect of coronavirus on the care home population and indeed through care homes could be higher.

We have put people on the frontline when the frontline should not have been there

The point is this. We could have and should have done more to shield care homes. We had the hospital capacity and could have safely quarantined those with the illness there.  We probably should have locked down homes to visitors much earlier and we should have prioritised testing for staff much sooner.

The reports of care home residents being returned to their homes from hospital with the virus or having spent time on red wards is deeply concerning. That this is wide spread suggests the problem is not with individual staff at the homes or the hospitals but with the system and the culture.  We need to look at the culture and processes of how decisions are made in the NHS and we also need to ask why the Government didn’t give some firm guidance on this early on.


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52631604

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