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Boris Johnson accused of ‘travesty of leadership’ after he criticises care home response to coronavirus

Labour said those working in care homes would be ‘appalled to hear the Prime Minister’s comments’. (PA)

5 min read

Boris Johnson has been accused of making a “travesty of leadership” after he questioned the response of care homes to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister sparked anger after he said “too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures”.

Care homes have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that more than 66,000 people died in care setting in England and Wales between March 2 and June 12 this year — compared to just under 37,000 in the same period in 2019.

Mr Johnson made the comments as he was pressed on NHS England chief Simon Stevens’ call for the crisis to be used to break a longstanding political deadlock on funding the country’s social care system.

The Prime Minister told reporters: “One of the things the crisis has shown is we need to think about how we organise our social care package better and how we make sure we look after people better who are in social care.

“We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lessons the whole time.

“Most important is to fund them properly... but we will also be looking at ways to make sure the care sector long-term is properly organised and supported.”

But those comments drew swift criticism from care providers, with Vic Rayner of the National Care Forum, which represents social care charities, telling the BBC: "There will be a lot of people within the care sector who feel that their efforts have gone unrecognised and who I think will feel rightly aggrieved that all the hard work and enormous effort they've put in hasn't been acknowledged.”

Mark Adams, chief executive of Community Integrated Care, told the Today programme on Tuesday morning he was “unbelievably disappointed” by the PM’s comments.

“This at the best was clumsy and cowardly," the charity boss said.

"But to be honest with you, if this is genuinely his view, I think we’re almost entering a Kafkaesque alternative reality where the government set the rules, we follow them, they don’t like the results, they then deny setting them. It is hugely frustrating.” 

He added: “You’ve got 1.6m social care workers who, when most of us were locked away in our bunkers waiting out Covid and really trying to protect our family, we’ve got these brave people on minimum wage often with no sickness cover at all going into work to protect our parents, our grandparents, our children, putting their own health and potentially lives at risk.

“And then to get perhaps the most senior man in the country turning around and blaming them on what has been an absolute travesty of leadership from the government?

"I just think it’s appalling.”

And Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, which provides care services in Yorkshire, said: "We should not be getting into the blame game and it is wrong to criticise care and nursing homes at this time.

"Care providers may not have got everything perfect but neither has the government. For far too much of this pandemic, providers were operating in the dark over what they ought to do and with one arm behind their backs in terms of the support they were given.

"In those circumstances, they have worked miracles."


Opposition parties also seized on the PM’s comments, with Labour’s shadow social care minister Liz Kendall saying: “There have been 30,000 excess deaths in care homes and at least 20,000 of these caused by Covid-19. 25,000 elderly people were discharged from hospitals to care homes without any tests whatsoever and frontline care workers were left without vital PPE.
“Staff who have gone the extra mile to care for elderly people, and experienced things the rest of us can only imagine, will be appalled to hear the Prime Minister’s comments.
Boris Johnson should be taking responsibility for his actions and fixing the crisis in social care, not blaming care homes for this Government’s mistakes.”
Acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey meanwhile said: "For weeks Boris Johnson told us he and his ministers had put a protective ring round our care homes. That was a lie and the public knew it. 

“Today he is trying to shift the blame to those who risked their lives caring for our loved ones, ignoring the facts that they had to accept patients from hospital without tests and weren’t allowed proper PPE for weeks. He should be ashamed.”


But, speaking to LBC radio on Tuesday morning, Business Secretary Alok Sharma defended the Mr Johnson's comments, saying the Conservative leader had been “incredibly supportive of the NHS and incredibly supportive of care workers”.

Mr Sharma said: "The point the prime minister was making is that nobody knew what those correct procedures were because quite frankly at the time we didn't know the extent of what the asymptomatic transmission was. Nobody knew this. 

“But what we've made sure is that we put in place detailed guidance, we provided extra funding for care homes, we ensured that people were being tested in care homes, and we provided PPE [personal protective equipment].

"As far as I'm concerned, the prime minister has been incredibly supportive of the sector right from the start of this pandemic."

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