Speech in the House of Lords May 12th 2020
My Lords, the justification for not providing Parliament with a draft of these regulations, as is usual, has been
“the serious and imminent threat to public health”.
Notwithstanding that, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, is right to say that our duty is to ask awkward questions and to scrutinise. I will use my three short minutes to do that.
Confusingly, while these regulations impose restrictions and fines for members of the public breaking the lockdown, a Cabinet Minister has said of Covid-19, “let it run hot”. Our Minister, who replies for the whole Government, says that it was not his department that said this, but which of these strategies—carefully cautious or “let it rip”—is the Government’s position? When will he publish the scientific evidence behind the use of that phrase?
The Care Quality Commission is to investigate whether hospitals, some here in the north of England, might have broken the law by sending patients with Covid-19 back to care homes, where more than a quarter of Covid deaths have occurred. Managers and staff were not told that the patients being discharged were infected, triggering new fatal outbreaks among other residents. Will the Minister confirm that, in doing this, the law was indeed broken? When do the Government anticipate that the CQC will publish its report? Will the findings be presented to Parliament?
Will the Minister confirm that levels of coronavirus infection are probably at least five times higher among hospital and care home staff than in the wider population—I declare an interest in that one of my sons is an A&E doctor working in a hospital with Covid patients—and that coronavirus outbreaks in care homes are now leaking back into the community and driving the epidemic? Sir Ian Diamond, the head of the Office for National Statistics, says that the R number, referred to earlier by the noble Lord,
“is driven by the epidemic in care homes”.
Will these regulations be used to stop carers visiting multiple care facilities? If so, what thought is being given to the care needs of residents and ensuring that staff who are infected are properly isolated?
I have written to the Minister about the importance of giving public health officers and local councils greater control over tackling the outbreak in their communities. Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Adviser, says this will be the only way to contain new peaks. Does the Minister agree? I also hope that the Minister agrees that the need for a national care service, locally administered but with central oversight, on a par with the National Health Service and with more than Cinderella status, is now self-evidently long overdue.
Lord Bethell, the Department of Health and Social Care, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2855):
Question from Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to publish guidance for local authorities on (1) treatment, (2) care, and (3) funding for people with dementia, during the COVID-19 pandemic; when any such guidance will be published; and what assessment they have made of the number of patients with dementia in care homes without staff who have had dementia training. (HL2855)
Tabled on: 24 March 2020
The Government has announced £1.6 billion of additional funding to support local authorities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic across all service areas.
The Department of Health and Social Care is working closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, local authorities and providers to make sure the adult social care sector is ready. New adult social care guidance is available online and covers provision of residential care, supported living and home care.
Guidance for other sectors is being produced and updated regularly and the Government is also finalising COVID-19 related guidance for care homes including those housing individuals with dementia, which will be published shortly.
Date and time of answer: 13 May 2020 at 12:56.
Lord Bethell, the Department of Health and Social Care, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL3490):
Question from Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government why their guidance Admission and Care of Residents during COVID-19 Incident in a Care Home, published on 2 April, and the supplementary guidance, published on 17 April, differs from World Health Organisation guidance for-long term care facilities; and what assessment they have made of the compatibility of that guidance with their obligations under the 2009 UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the European Convention on Human Rights. (HL3490)
Tabled on: 28 April 2020
The Department, NHS England, Public Health England (PHE) and the Care Quality Commission co-published Admission and Care of Residents during COVID-19 Incident in a Care Home guidance on 2 April 2020, followed by the publication of PHE guidance How to work safely in care homes on 17 April 2020.
Residential care settings must always seek to fully protect the rights of disabled people now and throughout the course of this global pandemic. No changes have been made to the human rights protections in the Mental Health Act 1983 or as a result of the Care Act 2014 easements. The Adult Social Care Action Plan, published on 15 April 2020, includes information on supporting people to maintain their independence and responding to individual needs.
This is an unprecedented global pandemic. We are constantly reviewing our guidance in line with policy changes based at all times on the best scientific advice.
Date and time of answer: 13 May 2020 at 13:13.
Lord Bethell, the Department of Health and Social Care, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2997):
Question from Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bethell on 21 April (HL2602), why they have not been in contact with the National Cancer Institute Pascale Foundation or the Colli Hospital in Italy to assess the potential outcomes of the use of Tocilizumab to treat patients with COVID-19 related pneumonia; how they are monitoring “the results of trials of experimental therapies for COVID-19 from around the world”; what discussions they plan to have with the National Cancer Institute Pascale Foundation, and the Colli Hospital in Italy as part of that monitoring; whether the United Kingdom Therapeutics Task Force will report on its findings of its assessment of tocilizumab; and if so, when. (HL2997)
Tabled on: 22 April 2020
Tocilizumab has begun evaluation in the United Kingdom as part of the RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP studies. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is in regular contact with sponsors and trial investigators to review clinical trials, offer scientific and regulatory advice on clinical trials and encourage early submission of emerging data though facilitated licensing routes. Emerging results from global trials will be taken into consideration by the MHRA during authorisation of UK clinical trials and to inform any amendments needed to ongoing trials.
The Government recognises the importance of collaborating effectively to combat COVID-19, and the UK is meeting regularly with other countries both bilaterally and multilaterally to share information on a variety of subjects including clinical trials. Working with partners across the health and care system, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is supporting the identification, prioritisation and delivery of high quality COVID-19 research, a key element of the Government’s overall response. As part of this work, the NIHR Innovation Observatory is monitoring the progress of trials taking place across the world.
The Therapeutics Taskforce has not been in direct contact with the National Cancer Institute Pascale Foundation or the Colli Hospital in Italy.
Date and time of answer: 07 May 2020 at 13:20.
Written Questions from Lord Alton of Liverpool Tabled May 12th 2020
what assessment they have made of reports that up to 2,000 UK seafarers have been stranded on ships. [T]
what plans are in place to implement the International Maritime Organisation’s Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, issued on 6 May, to ensure the continued free movement of seafarers; and what steps they are taking to ensure the swift return to the UK of UK seafarers whose contracts of employment have expired and are now stranded on ships around the world.
what steps they are taking in response to the UK Chamber of Shipping’s request that they sign up to a global initiative to repatriate seafarers stranded across the world.
what assessment they have made of reports that hospitals discharged patients with COVID-19 to care homes without alerting those care homes to such patient’s suspected or confirmed diagnosis; whether they expect the Care Quality Commission to publish a report on any such instances; if so, (1) when they estimate that report will be published, and (2) whether the findings will be presented to Parliament; and what assessment they have made of the risk of legal proceedings being brought against any hospital found to have acted in such a way.
what assessment they have made of the impact of COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes on the level of COVID-19 cases in the wider community; what plans they have to prevent carers from visiting multiple care facilities; and what steps they are taking to ensure the adequate care of care home residents while ensuring that infected staff are properly isolated.
what assessment they have made of (1) the remarks by the National Statistician that the R rate of COVID-19 infections “is driven by the epidemic in care homes; and (2) reports by Care England that the levels of COVID-19 infections among hospital and care home staff may be five times higher than those in the wider population; and what steps they are taking in response.
what assessment they have made of the report by Amnesty International’s Nowhere is safe for us: unlawful attacks and mass displacement in north-west Syria, published on 10 May; and what steps they intend to take in response