Boris Johnson provoked an angry dispute last night after he accused care homes of failing to look after their residents properly during the pandemic.
Triggering a blame game over the care home scandal, the Prime Minister said ‘too many’ facilities had not followed proper safety procedures.
Care bosses hit back, warning Mr Johnson his comments were ‘neither accurate nor welcome’.
Boris Johnson claimed that too many care home facilities had not followed proper safety procedures to combat the cornavirus, which has prompted an angry dispute
Social care has been hit badly by the crisis, with nearly 30,000 dying in care homes as a result of coronavirus. Tensions have simmered for weeks over the way officials and politicians have apportioned blame for the scandal.
NHS bosses are furious they have been criticised for discharging infected patients into care homes. And Public Health England officials have been angered over being blamed for a lack of testing capacity.
At the same time, ministers are sensitive about criticism over social care, which they have repeatedly promised to reform.
Those tensions boiled over last night as Mr Johnson assigned the failings to care homes.
Speaking during a visit to Goole in Yorkshire, the Prime Minister said: ‘One of the things the crisis has shown is we need to think about how we organise our social care package better and how we make sure we look after people better who are in social care.
Tensions have risen over the way politicians and officials have assigned the blame as to the high number of coronavirus deaths in care homes (pictured) in the UK
‘We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have, but we’re learning lessons the whole time.’
He was responding to remarks by NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens, who said the coronavirus crisis had shone ‘a very harsh spotlight’ on the resilience of the sector and urged the Government to enact plans for reform within a year.
Mr Johnson last night accepted change is needed, saying: ‘Most important is to fund them properly. But we will also be looking at ways to make sure the care sector long term is properly organised and supported.’
Vic Rayner, of the National Care Forum, rejected the criticism and urged the Prime Minister to start ‘turning the dial up on reform and down on blame’.
She added: ‘Mr Johnson’s comments in relation to care homes’ following of procedures are neither accurate nor welcome.
The Prime Minster has been told to spend more time making reforms than pointing fingers at the care home sector
‘Government guidance has come in stops and starts, with organisations grappling with over 100 pieces of additional guidance in the same number of days, much of which was not accompanied by an understanding of the operational implications of operating care services.
‘Care providers have moved to adopt these procedures consistently, at pace and with integrity.’
The Independent Care Group said most providers had ‘done their absolute best in the face of slow and conflicting advice’.
Chairman Mike Padgham said: ‘We should not be getting into the blame game and it is wrong to criticise care and nursing homes at this time.
‘It is worth remembering that in February Public Health England told homes it was “very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home will become infected” and that homes didn’t need to do anything differently.
‘It was many weeks later, after most homes had already put themselves into lockdown, that the advice changed.’
National Care Forum chairman Mike Padgham said care homes have not got everything right in the fight against the pandemic, but neither has the Government
It was only when the real death toll in homes became clear that the Government accepted social care was as much on the front line as hospitals, said Mr Padgham.
He added: ‘Care providers may not have got everything perfect but neither has the Government.
‘For much of this pandemic, providers were operating in the dark over what they ought to do and with one arm behind their backs in terms of the support they were given. In those circumstances, they have worked miracles.’
No 10 last night tried to calm the row, saying Mr Johnson had not been criticising care homes but had merely been highlighting the difficulties they faced.
‘Throughout this crisis care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances,’ a spokesman said.
‘The PM was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.’