BBC Report of April 28th on devastating number of deaths in UK care homes:
House of Lords (Virtual) Debate on Covid 19 and the impact on care homes: April 23rd 2019.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, for initiating today’s important debate.
Earlier this month I drew the Minister’s attention to the appalling death toll at Wavertree’s Oak Springs Care Home in Liverpool, where 16 people have died. For grieving loved ones and for the people who care for them, deaths in care homes are diminished when out of sight means out of mind.
Even with a carer at your deathbed, it is a devastating and harrowing way to end your life in isolation. Surely more can be done to enable loved ones to visit and, where requested, to provide spiritual accompaniment, the sacraments and ministry, and for the skills of hospices and palliative care to be urgently made more widely available.
Carers have expressed concern to me—which I share—that the Government have said, in relation to the virus, “Let it run hot.” Is that still being said?
Who authorised letters sent by GPs to care homes stating that their residents, including adults with learning disabilities, would be unlikely to be offered ventilation? It is impossible to say in advance that such treatment would not be appropriate or beneficial.
As we heard last week from the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, deaths in care homes have quadrupled. The Financial Times yesterday estimated that some 10,000 have died of coronavirus in our care homes, while this morning the Daily Telegraph said it believed that the rate of attrition is about 400 every day. We have also learned that in Europe, half of all deaths have occurred in care homes.
Meanwhile, only 25% of care workers have been able to access tests.
Taking up a point made just a moment ago by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, when will care homes be provided with adequate supplies of PPE and their staff routinely and regularly tested for the coronavirus? Without such tests, carers are having to self-isolate because they develop symptoms and do not want to risk killing the people they care for. No one can say that we did not know what we were facing.
Weeks ago, in Italy, it was said that the elderly in care were facing a massacre while from Spain there came deeply shocking reports of the corpses of elderly people being found in all but abandoned care homes.
Given what we knew about this terrible unfolding tragedy, why were our care homes not locked down sooner, PPE not sent in immediately and tests not provided for all? Andrea Lyon, the manager of the Oak Springs Care Home, has said that the Government’s plans
“should have been ready to be actioned immediately, not three weeks down the line. I had to take care of my residents with less than 50% of my staff because the government didn’t have their action plan ready. It makes me very angry.”
That anger will have its day during an inevitable public inquiry, but if any good is to come out of this rupture in our equilibrium, there will need to be radical and fundamental change in everything from our supply chain resilience to national self-sufficiency, inequality and social solidarity.
What the deaths in our care homes have made abundantly clear is that, alongside our National Health Service, we need a national care service. If a national care service emerged from the wreckage of Covid-19, it would represent a gain among so much loss comparable to the gain of the National Health Service post 1945.