Despite the deaths of approximately 20,000 people in UK care homes in the first months of the COVID19 pandemic, the government are proposing to repeat the process to “protect the NHS” in the event of a second wave.
A leaked document, acquired by Channel 4 News reveals that care homes will be asked to receive patients from hospital within two hours of being given the direction to discharge, whether they have tested positive for CoV, or have never been tested.
This is beyond comprehension. Elders already in COVID19-free care homes risk becoming infected as the infection spreads throughout their home. Relatives are not allowed to visit family members in care homes to prevent the introduction of the infection. Care home staff are at risk of taking it home to their own family and community.
Back in the Spring when the NHS was trying to cope with a sudden influx of patients, the care homes said they were not prepared, trained or supplied with the necessary PPE, and to all intents and purposes the same situation still pertains.
The testing process has fallen short by every possible metric. The government are planning to throw £500 million at the care home problem, but these issues cannot be fixed by money alone, witness the £10 billion failing Track and Trace initiative itself.
Comment: The on going restrictions in the UK were initially to ‘flatten the curve and protect the NHS’. During those first months, an estimated 47% (at least 20,000) of the total UK deaths ascribed to COVID19, were in care homes. Patients were discharged from hospital into care homes without being tested. Care homes were not equipped to quarantine residents who tested positive, staff were asked to work in unsafe environments without proper equipment and residents were pressured to sign Do Not Resuscitate notices.
If we forgive these unnecessary deaths as the result of a panicked government trying to cope with an overwhelmed NHS – what response can we have when the government plans to do exactly the same again during the coming flu season, when for almost seven months the NHS has been focused on COVID19, to the exclusion of all other services, hospitals are largely empty, Nightingale hospitals and the rented space in private hospitals still unused?
This is now blatant and wilful disregard of the lessons that should have been learned in the Spring and might literally be described as murder, given the definition of manslaughter is unlawful killing without forethought. No doubt these cases will be used as part of the justification for restrictions imposed because of the ‘second wave’, even though they are directly caused by government policy.
Anyone with an elder in a care home needs to ponder their future. And where is parliament to hold the government to account on this?