'We were forgotten': Care sector leader slams government for failing homes during early stages of pandemic

·3-min read
Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Thursday May 27, 2021.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (PA)

The government has been severely criticised for failing care homes during the early stages of the pandemic.

Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group told Sky News that homes were “forgotten” as the virus first began to spread in the UK last year.

It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock insisted the government "worked as hard as we could to protect care homes" following scathing criticism from Dominic Cummings.

The former Downing Street adviser told MPs that suggestions care home were shielded from the virus last year was “complete nonsense”.

Read: Burglar jailed after stabbing pensioner multiple times before being caught by police covered in his blood

Asked about Cummings' claims on Sunday, Padgham said: “I don't believe myself there was a ring of protection thrown round us.

"In those very early days it was difficult. We were forgotten. We've been forgotten over decades. That's the only issue in social care.

"We weren't prepared. We weren't ready. We didn't have the PPE, we didn't have the testing.”

Padgham added that it took the government “many, many weeks” to see what was happening in homes despite the sector's “best efforts and protestations”.

He also called for reform in the social care sector.

"I've lost faith in all politicians really, because going through Labour, the coalition, now Conservatives, everyone's promised something and it's never happened,” he said.

Watch: Dominic Cummings: Matt Hancock should have been fired multiple times

"I'm at a loss to know what we can do in the future. All I would say, if something positive came out of this pandemic, it's got to be reform of social care.

"Rather than people stepping down now and resigning, I want the Government to actually give us a date when they're going to deliver social care, not move from it.

"If they don't deliver this time, then they need to step aside and let someone else do it because we've run out of patience. It needs action today."

Hancock has been forced to defend himself over his handling of care homes amid calls for his resignation.

On Wednesday, Cummings also claimed that Hancock lied about COVID-testing people before they returned to care homes from hospitals in the early part of the pandemic.

He told MPs on Wednesday that the prime minister was furious to discover in April 2020 that untested hospital patients had been discharged to care homes.

Read: Man arrested after woman doused in noxious substance left hospitalised

He added that Hancock had told Johnson a month earlier they would be tested.

When asked about this claim, Hancock told a Downing Street news conference it was not possible to test everyone being sent from hospitals into care homes at the start of the outbreak due to the need to build up the infrastructure for testing.

He said: "Of course we committed, and I committed, to getting the policy in place but it took time to build the testing.

"We didn't start with a big testing system in the UK and then we built that testing system, and that's why the 100,000 target was so important because it really accelerated the availability of testing because when you don't have much testing we had to prioritise it according to clinical need."

Watch: Hancock denies promising tests before patients went to care homes

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