Boris Johnson said that the buck would ultimately stop with him when it comes to the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. So naturally, our PM has seemingly attempted to shift the blame from himself – do we expect anything less? Let’s take a look at what was said, and what actually happened. By Michael Delaney.
What’s happened now?
On Monday, the total UK coronavirus death toll rose to 44,236. Nearly 20,000 of these deaths were in care homes.
The UK govt has been accused of mishandling the pandemic, particularly the excess deaths in care homes, and failing to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Speaking during a visit to Goole in Yorkshire, Johnson said “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.”
Slap in the face
The PM’s comments have drawn criticism from the care sector, who described his comments as a “slap in the face”.
For many working in the sector, they have been at the frontline of the country’s response to try and contain the virus and care for their community.
But if we go back to the very beginning of the pandemic, what exactly are the guidelines they should have followed?
Protect the NHS
Scenes from Europe sent shivers down the spines of those working in the health and care sector, particularly the care homes in Spain. How could we respond best, based on what we were seeing?
We remember the slogan – protect the NHS. This was the priority, to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.
Consequently, the government introduced guidelines to fulfil this…
Set up to fail
In short, these guides were:
1. Take people out of hospital and place them in care homes. Those that were well enough, were moved into the care sector, and the NHS footed the bill.
2. Get PPE to the hospitals. Being one of the later countries hit by the pandemic, we also seemed to be last in the queue for PPE. This meant that the small amounts of PPE available were directed away from care homes to hospitals.
3. Anyone with symptoms must self-isolate. This meant that care homes were left with huge staff shortages.
Trouble with testing
You’ll recall the lack of testing available at the start of the crisis.
This meant that people being moved out of hospital, who did not present symptoms but could have been asymptotic, were being sent into an environment with many other vulnerable people.
It also meant that staff shortages were made worse as care home workers could not rule out whether they had Covid-19 or not.
And being short-staffed in a care home would have made the situation worse, as we have learned speaking to someone who works in one.
Working in a care home
“Staff shortages made the situation worse.
“We would be told to isolate patients that were suspected Covid positive. But if that patient had dementia, like many of them do, it was near impossible to keep them in their rooms when there weren’t enough of you to look after the whole home in the first place.
“Trying to explain to somebody who doesn’t fully understand what’s going on, why they must stay in their room is really difficult.”
We must also not forget that it was the government’s position that care homes were unlikely to be affected by Covid-19 until March 13th when they reversed their position.
Opposition Leader, Kier Starmer, called this out during Prime minister’s questions, only for Boris Johnson to flatly deny this was ever the case, doubling down on the idea of the “protective ring” that was thrown around care homes.
What’s the response been?
Mark Adams, who runs the charity Community Integrated Care, called the PM’s comments an “alternative reality where the government sets the rules, we follow them, they don’t like the results, they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that we’re trying to do their best.”
Liz Kendall, Shadow Care Sec. accused the govt of “ignoring the long term neglect” of the sector, which will stop us from “finding real solutions”.
A No 10 spokesman said the PM would not be apologising for his remarks, and said the government had “put in place rigorous testing and additional funding”.
Let us know your thoughts.
Do you think the PM should apologise?
Is this distracting from the main issue?
What are your views on the PM’s latest remarks?