Prime Minister disgracefully uninformed or deliberately misleading over covid-19 care home response: HCA statement

Prime Minister disgracefully uninformed or deliberately misleading over covid-19 care home response

The Hampshire Care Association is appalled by comments from the Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday that “too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have” in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government’s protective ring for care homes never materialised. Care home staff have been working bravely on the front line to protect some of the country’s most vulnerable people, putting their own lives at risk to do so.

There has been no meaningful or effective strategy for social care. Care home staff have been subject to late, incorrect and incoherent advice, a lack of personal protective equipment and a complete absence of a meaningful testing strategy to keep them and the people they care for safe.

When they did materialise, Government directives were two steps behind the reality on the ground. In most cases, promises of testing, PPE and other support did not materialise. These problems were compounded by the initial sole focus on protecting the NHS, leaving care homes and their residents abandoned and bravely battling the pandemic on their own.

The £600m for “covid-compliant care homes” is the most recent example of the abject failure of this government to understand what care homes and other social care sector providers need; the money cannot be used to buy PPE and a large proportion of it is being used to deliver infection control training to already highly skilled and trained staff, months after many had seen the peak of the pandemic in their setting. 

“For the government to suggest that care home staff are in any way responsible for the tragedy that has unfolded in the care sector is abhorrent and an insult to all those who have risked their lives during this pandemic,” said Samir Patel, Chairman of the Hampshire Care Association.  

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the adult social care sector was under severe financial duress with calls for urgent funds to prevent the sector from collapse.

Nearly £8bn has been cut from council adult social care budgets since 2010. Local authorities have been left with no option but to cut services (an estimated 1.4 million people who need care are denied it as a result of cuts), and reduce what they pay for care.

The HCA’s own analysis of the financial impact of the covid-19 pandemic (based on responses from our membership) revealed that overall, covid-19 has led to costs increasing by nearly 20% since February with staff and infection control costs contributing most to this increase. Our analysis revealed that the current financial support package on offer is not meeting these increased costs for over half of providers.

Moving forward, covid-19 is negatively impacting market stability. 60% of providers report below average occupancy levels, 58% are concerned the current crisis could put them in a high risk position with their lender and 65% of providers are concerned this crisis puts the future viability of their service at risk.

At the same time, the regulatory environment for social care has kept pace with rising demand and more complex needs. Providers and local authorities have been asked to provide a lot more for a lot less.

The government’s long-awaited Social Care Green Paper, originally due to be published in April 2017, has now been delayed five times with intensity on the sector growing considerably in the meantime. 

The Hampshire Care Association is calling for urgent and meaningful engagement with the whole sector on the steps that need to be taken to reform social care in this country. Reforms must ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are treated with dignity and respect and cared for by staff who are recognised for the vital contribution they make to society.