Coronavirus: Matt Hancock says government ‘will not rest’ as new figures show more than 9,900 people have died in care homes
The Health Secretary told MPs care home residents would get the “safety and security they deserve“.
Matt Hancock has said ministers “will not rest” until the coronavirus epidemic is under control in the country’s care homes, as stark new figures revealed that more than 9,900 residents have died with the virus in England and Wales.
The Health Secretary defended the Government’s handling of the crisis, and vowed that care home residents would get the “safety and security they deserve“ as the Office for National Statistics updated its toll.
But Labour’s Liz Kendall accused ministers of “denying problems and delays” in the wake of the latest figures, as well as a stark warning from one care home boss that the sector had been sidelined in favour of the NHS.
The new ONS statistics show that, in the week ending 8 May, 42.4% of all deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales happened in care homes.
Of the total 44,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the UK, the ONS said 9,980 had taken place in care homes.
But the number of new care home deaths fell 31% to 1,666 in the week ending May 8, down from 2,432 deaths in the previous seven days.
"We should have been focusing on care homes from the start of this pandemic" - Martin Green, Care England
Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr Hancock said: “As a collective result of our efforts, especially of care colleagues across the country, 62% of care homes have had no reported cases of coronavirus.
“And today’s figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, show that the number of deaths in care homes has fallen significantly - down by a third in just the last week from 2,423 to 1,666.”
He added: “This morning’s statistics confirm that 27% of coronaviurs deaths in England have taken place in care homes - which compares to a European average of around a half.
“But whatever the figures say, we will not rest from doing whatever is humanly possible to protect our care homes from this appalling virus, to make sure residents and care colleagues have the safety and security they deserve.”
But Ms Kendall, Labour’s shadow minister for social care said the Government had been “too slow to tackle the problem in care homes", and warned that social care had not “had the same priority as the NHS".
“NHS England rightly asked hospitals to free up at least 30,000 beds to cope with the virus,” she said.
“But can he explain why there was no requirement to test those being discharged to care homes, the very group most at risk, until 15 April?"
The Labour frontbencher also said it had taken the Government until mid-April to draw up a Covid-19 plan for social care, “until the end of April to say all residents and staff should be tested, and until the May 11 to set a deadline for achieving this”.
And she warned: “No one denies how difficult it is. But instead of denying problems and delays, ministers should learn from their mistakes so they put the right measures in place in future and keep all elderly and disabled people safe.”
'SUPPORT WAS WITHDRAWN'
The Commons clash came after professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, told the Health Select Committee that there had been “cases of people....who were symptomatic” with Covid-19 being discharged into care homes.
And the social care boss told MPs: “We should have been focusing on care homes from the start of this pandemic. The focus was on the NHS and support was withdrawn."
But Mr Hancock, whose department last week unveiled £600m of new funding for infection control measures in care homes, defended the “appropriate” decision to discharge some people from hospital back into care homes.
He said: “It’s important to remember that hospital can be a dangerous place for people. As well as saving lives it also can carry risks and does.”
And the Health Secretary added: “What’s important is that infection control procedures are in place in that care home.
“And those infection control procedures were put in place at the start of this crisis and have been strengthened.”
Mr Hancock meanwhile told Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy that he was “very happy to look into” publishing figures on the numbers of people with Covid-19 who had been discharged from hospitals to care homes.
Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Munira Wilson said the public would “rightly be appalled” at the latest numbers on care home deaths.
She said: "The Government has failed to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society from coronavirus.
“For Ministers to keep trying to claim they put a 'protective ring' around care homes is not only false, but will be regarded by many as only adding further insult to all those grieving the loss of a loved one.”