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Labour slams ministers over block-booking of care home beds for coronavirus patients

Labour have said the practice may have contributed to the spread of coronavirus among care home residents

4 min read

Labour have hit out at the Government after it emerged that beds in care homes had block-booked for recovering coronavirus patients to ease pressure on the NHS.

Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said Boris Johnson's claim to have thrown a "protective-ring" around the sector "didn't exist" after it was revealed hundreds of coronavirus patients had been discharged into care homes.

It came after ITV news found 1,800 beds had been block-booked by NHS and local councils to deal with the surge of coronavirus patients being released from hospitals, including 182 beds in Suffolk, 122 in the Wirral and 86 in Oxfordshire.

Care home managers have already claimed the Government's decision not to institue mandatory testing for patients being discharged into care homes until after 15 April had contributed to the spread of the deadly virus among residents.

At least 16,000 care home residents are confirmed or suspected to have died from the virus, while official figures revealed that outbreaks had occured in 38% of care homes in England and 59% of those in Scotland.

Meanwhile, ITV said some care homes were still being forced to accept coronavirus patients.

Mike Padgham, managing director of Saint Cecilia's care home in Scarborough, told the broadcaster six confirmed coronavirus patients were still being cared for in the home after fifteen beds were booked by the NHS and local council.

He said without accept the patients the "business is not viable and that people might have to move or staff might lose their job, so it's not an easy decision to make".

He added: "I've had a few sleepless nights over it to be honest, but I'm doing my bit and taking advice from everybody and taking a decision, whether it's the right decision, time will tell."

The report comes after Boris Johnson told MPs there had not been a "concerted effort" to discharge coronavirus patients into care home, saying he had not recieved advice that the move could contribute to the spread of the virus.

But Ms Kendall said the new figures proved the "opposite" as she claimed the strategy "may have contributed" to the crisis in the sector.

"Throughout this pandemic the Government has been far too slow to protect care homes and this is yet another sign that the ‘protective ring’ around care homes just didn’t exist," she said.

"While the Prime Minister has claimed that there wasn’t a concerted effort to move people out of hospitals into care homes, this shows the opposite, and that Government measures to quickly discharge people from hospitals may have contributed to the tragedy that has unfolded in social care.

"Ministers must learn lessons from what has happened so far.

"They must get a grip of this crisis, implement a full strategy for supporting care homes, and give care services the priority and resources they deserve."


The comments came amid reports that ministers had rejected a serious of "high impact" measures for protecting care home residents proposed by Public Health England.

According the Guardian, an 11-point plan was presented to ministers amid soaring numbers of deaths in care homes, including recommendations to "use NHS facilities and other temporary accomodation to quarantine and isolate residents" and to "consider whether staff can move into the care home for the next four weeks".

But despite the advice from public health officials, neither of the measures were taken up by Health Secretary Matt Hancock when he unveiled his plans for protecting care homes from the virus last week.

Responding to the reports, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "We have worked tirelessly with care homes to reduce transmission and save lives, and almost two-thirds have had no outbreaks at all.

"We announced £600m to help tackle the spread of coronavirus, including by limiting staff movement between care homes, as well as £1.3bn to cover alternative accomdation to isolate residents.

"We are also testing all care workers and residents, regardless of symptoms, and deliver millions of PPE to the frontline."

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