Government's handling of care homes in lockdown is 'shambolic'

Government’s handling of care homes in lockdown is ‘shambolic’ while mixed messaging has created ‘confusion and more work’, damning verdict of social services chiefs in leaked letter reveals

  • Letter says personal protective equipment deliveries have been ‘paltry’ 
  • Says that PPE meant for carers was confiscated and sent the the NHS  
  • Raises concerns that the sector is not given same consideration as the NHS  
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Social care bosses have criticised the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis as shambolic.

A leaked letter from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) to the Department of Health and Social Care says Downing Street has caused ‘confusion and additional workload’ through mixed messages.

Adass raises concerns about testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers and funding. 

The letter was written on Saturday and leaked to the BBC and says early deliveries of PPE have been ‘paltry’ with more recent drops ‘haphazard’.   

Pictured: Health Secretary Matt Hancock with the ‘badge of honour’ for care workers as he faces criticism for the Government’s handling of the crisis

As care workers have repeatedly raised concerns that they are being forgotten about during the crisis, the letter has revealed that some PPE meant for care workers is being confiscated by border control then sent to the NHS. 

It argues that statements from the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department of Health on the shielding scheme for people particularly at risk from the illness have been contradictory.

Though it welcomes the rolling out of testing for care workers, it says that it is being done without thought as to what the sector will do with the results. 

Adass criticised the government for recruiting volunteers, saying it ‘diverted 750,000 volunteers away from supporting local communities and left them with nothing to do for the first three weeks’.

The care sector chiefs have accused the government of not giving them the same consideration as the NHS 

QUARTER OF ALL CORONAVIRUS DEATHS IN SCOTLAND OCCUR IN A CARE HOME 

Official figures revealed yesterday a quarter of all coronavirus deaths in Scotland have been in care homes. 

Data from the National Records of Scotland showed 962 people diagnosed with, or suspected of having, COVID-19 had died.

Of those, 237 (24.6 per cent) were in care homes, 586 in hospitals, 128 in homes and one in an undisclosed location.

The figure was five times higher than the 5 per cent number given by the Office for National Statistics, which collates data in England and Wales.

Government experts found 217 of 3,700 deaths had been recorded in care homes across the two nations registered up until April 3. 

The ONS statistics also showed that another 5 per cent of deaths had been recorded outside of hospitals, such as in hospices. 

Separate figures showed the true number of deaths was 52 per cent higher than the count given by the Department of Health every day.

The ONS counted 5,979 deaths in England by April 3, compared to the 3,939 figure given by health chiefs on the same day – a difference of around 2,000. 

The Department of Health figures are affected by a backlog in hospital recordings, meaning that hundreds of deaths are not registered to be counted.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also said yesterday that 433 care homes – about 40 per cent of all those in Scotland – have now reported cases of the virus. 

Care home bosses have raised similar concerns about the true size of the crisis in Britain’s care sector, with some claiming two thirds of homes have outbreaks. 

The group calls it ‘shameful that this was not done in collaboration with local government’. It accuses Whitehall of not giving the care sector the same consideration as the NHS.

A spokesperson for Adass said: ‘We know everybody is working tirelessly to try to make this as effective as they can be in the face of something that we have never faced before. It’s really important that the dynamics between local and national government are right.’ 

A Department of Health spokesperson said the government’s ‘comprehensive action plan to support the adult social care sector’ in England included ‘ramping up testing, overhauling the way PPE is being delivered to care homes and helping to minimise the spread of the virus to keep people safe’.

‘We will continue to work closely with the social care sector to ensure they have everything they need to respond to this outbreak and receive the recognition they deserve,’ they added. 

Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow social care minister, said the concerns raised in the letter were ‘extremely worrying’. 

It comes after official figures revealed yesterday a quarter of all coronavirus deaths in Scotland have been in care homes. 

Data from the National Records of Scotland showed 962 people diagnosed with, or suspected of having, COVID-19 had died.

Of those, 237 (24.6 per cent) were in care homes, 586 in hospitals, 128 in homes and one in an undisclosed location.

The figure was five times higher than the 5 per cent number given by the Office for National Statistics, which collates data in England and Wales.

Government experts found 217 of 3,700 deaths had been recorded in care homes across the two nations registered up until April 3. 

The ONS statistics also showed that another 5 per cent of deaths had been recorded outside of hospitals, such as in hospices. 

Separate figures showed the true number of deaths was 52 per cent higher than the count given by the Department of Health every day.

HIDDEN EPIDEMIC OF CORONAVIRUS IN CARE HOMES MAY HAVE COST 4,000 LIVES, EXPERTS WARN 

A ‘hidden epidemic’ of coronavirus in care homes may have cost 4,000 lives, experts warned last night. 

They believe deaths are being hugely under-reported because of a lack of testing.

GPs are also sometimes reluctant to write COVID-19 on death certificates and figures from care homes are not included in the official daily toll. 

The latest report from the Office for National Statistics says the virus killed 217 care home residents in England and Wales up to April 3. 

But industry figures say the true count is much higher – potentially 4,000 since the outbreak started. 

Campaigners and MPs warned yesterday of an ‘unfolding horror’ that could end up with tens of thousands of forgotten victims. 

Ministers face urgent calls to get a grip and get virus tests for all staff and residents with symptoms, more protection gear and a Cabinet minister to deal with the crisis.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night pledged action on testing and is also expected to outline a plan to address the crisis in a social care strategy. 

Care home operators complain they are being overlooked, with desperate short – ages of testing and staff safety equipment making it extremely hard to stop the disease ravaging their sites. 

The ONS counted 5,979 deaths in England by April 3, compared to the 3,939 figure given by health chiefs on the same day – a difference of around 2,000. 

The Department of Health figures are affected by a backlog in hospital recordings, meaning that hundreds of deaths are not registered to be counted.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also said yesterday that 433 care homes – about 40 per cent of all those in Scotland – have now reported cases of the virus. 

Care home bosses have raised similar concerns about the true size of the crisis in Britain’s care sector, with some claiming two thirds of homes have outbreaks. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday announced a U-turn and said families with loved ones dying in care homes will be allowed to visit.

He also vowed to outlaw the blanket use of ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) plans, which staff claim they’ve been asked to routinely sign during the crisis.

It comes after shocking reports of elderly victims dying alone in care homes, with families complaining of having to say their last goodbyes over Skype. 

Mr Hancock’s intervention came amid fears the death toll in care homes in England and Wales is far higher than the official count of 217.

Industry figures say the true count is much closer 4,000 and that the toll is being hugely under-reported because of a lack of testing. 

Mr Hancock faced ridicule last night as he unveiled a new badge for under-pressure care workers amid fury over the rising death toll of vulnerable patients in homes.

The Health Secretary used the daily press coronavirus press conference to reveal a ‘single brand’ for care workers to allow them to access the same perks as NHS staff.

He said he hoped it would be seen as a ‘badge of honour’, but his comments were criticised amid rising anger over a lack of PPE for staff.

Critics pointed out that the badge had been launched last summer as ‘a unifying symbol of pride and quality in care’, and so was not even new. 

After the announcement today, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth tweeted: ‘A badge? Really a badge??’ 

It comes after the family of a care home resident in Nottingham were forced to wave goodbye from the car park as undertakers removed the body on Easter Monday.

‘Broken’ staff at Wren Hall nursing home had reportedly been too busy treating dying coronavirus patients to schedule a ‘last goodbye’ Skype call.

Wren Hall has suffered 10 deaths in the space of weeks.

The home’s manager, Anita Astle, told The Guardian: ‘The first resident started with symptoms on 24 March. 

‘Since then we have had 19 people in isolation and four have come out of isolation. We are just having deaths all the time.’

Ms Astle said there was a pattern at Wren Hall where residents would rapidly deteriorate after appearing to stabilise. She said it was ‘soul destroying’ to watch.

The rapid deterioration means it has been hard to get family to the home to say goodbye in time.

‘People pick up at day five or six and seem to be stabilising and then at day eight, nine, 10 they plummet,’ she said.

‘It’s getting harder and harder every day. We lose somebody and it gets worse. They are trying to keep up their spirits, but it’s not happening … We’re fighting a losing battle.

‘The families are scared. There are families calling wanting to speak to their loved ones and wanting to Skype them, but we are also looking after people who are really ill. Sometimes you feel bad you can’t give them the time they want.’

It’s criminal: Families’ disgust after 24 residents die of coronavirus in ONE care home and six die and eight are infected out of just 24 in another

A third of the residents at a virus-hit care home have died in just ten days.

In a stark example of the crisis in the sector, six passed away as staff struggled to contain an outbreak.

Last night the daughter of one of the dead said the state care homes had been left in was ‘wicked’. 

Rhona White, 64 – whose mother Peggy Grainger, 86, had a moving final letter from her family read to her because they were unable to visit – said: ‘The whole situation is just criminal. People are being allowed to die in these homes and nobody seems to really care about it.’


Ian Charles Leverington (left), 70, a retired engineer, was the first resident to die on April 3 while Gillian Howard (right), 77, who was described by the care home as ‘an extravagant person’ who ‘enjoyed telling stories of her past and her connections with the Royal Family, died on April 8

Some 85 per cent of carers at Philia Care Home in Peterborough have either fallen sick or had to self-isolate after coming into contact with carriers. 

The home had 18 residents at the start of the month. Six died in a ten-day period from April 3.

Eight of the remaining 12 are believed to have been infected, although three of these have recovered. Staff try to stay healthy, but many struggle to get hold of personal protective equipment (PPE).

At one point, they even resorted to making home-made visors from plastic file wallets held over their faces with Alice bands.

Bosses yesterday warned inadequate financial support and the dramatic loss of residents was creating a funding crisis that could result in closure – and would be repeated in homes up and down the UK.

Managing director Carol Smit said: ‘We will not be able to sustain this indefinitely.’

Manager Heidi Seldon, who has moved into the home and sleeps in her office, said: ‘What I wasn’t prepared for was how hard it was going to be, emotionally, watching so many of my residents suffering from coronavirus.

‘We’re just trying to hold ourselves together and hope that there will be some light at the end of the tunnel.’


George Smith (left), 88, who was described as ‘a caring man who has spent his whole life caring for his own loved ones’ died last Friday while Peggy Grainger (right), who was described as a ‘gentle, loving person who always put her family first’ died on Monday

Deputy manager Zdenka Dunczikiva has returned to work after falling ill. The 29-year-old, who is staying at the home round-the-clock and has left her five-year-old son with her parents, said: ‘Sadly six people have passed away and it looks like more will go. The next few days are going to be really, really hard.’

The first resident to die, on April 3, was retired engineer Ian Leverington, 70. His only child, Haley Leverington, 38, said: ‘My dad would still be alive today if it wasn’t for the virus.

‘It’s a hidden scandal because the death toll could be twice as bad if they took notice of the care homes.

‘But they’re only looking at NHS hospitals and the general public. Just because they’re elderly doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to be recognised.’

Other victims included Gillian Howard, 77, who died on April 8 and was described by the care home as ‘an extravagant person’ who ‘enjoyed telling stories of her past and her connections with the Royal Family’.

George Smith, who died last Friday aged 88, was ‘a caring man who has spent his whole life caring for his own loved ones’ while Mrs Grainger, who died on Monday, was described as a gentle, loving person who always put her family first’.

The home, which was rated good by the Care Quality Commission last year, is one of six operated by Trust Care Management Group. None of the others has so far been hit by Covid-19. 

Some 85 per cent of the carers at the virus-hit care home in Peterborough (pictured) have either fallen sick or are having to self-isolate after coming into contact with carriers

The local care commissioning group (CCG) recently increased its budget by just 4 per cent – less than the shortfall caused by rises in the national living wage, inflation and soaring PPE costs.

A quarter of its annual PPE budget has been spent in just three weeks on goggles, gowns, visors and gloves. Senior staff also claimed the CCG made a verbal agreement to block purchase all the beds for six months but withdrew it because of the virus outbreak.

Mrs Smit last night called on the Government to end the two-tier system under which the NHS pays no VAT on PPE but care homes pay full price. She said an ’emergency measure’ to remove VAT during the crisis should be introduced, adding: ‘At least that would give us some kind of funding relief.’

There are also concerns about who will administer end-of-life medication including pain relief.

GPs stopped visiting the home at the start of the pandemic and community nurses have warned that they may not be able to attend in future due to staffing problems.

Chris Graham, the group’s national operations manager, said: ‘They [staff] have been offered training by Zoom or Skype. 

But the home will need to be insured and indemnified. There has to be training and competency.’ 

Trust Care Management Group is owned by Mrs Smit and her business partner, and run by two families. 

It started with two care homes in 2010. Philia Lodge was the fourth. The home normally has a budget of £46 a week for PPE. In the last three weeks it has spent £1,236.

Public Health England delivered 300 face masks to every care facility at the beginning of the crisis, but ‘with no guidance’.

Mr Graham said: ‘We didn’t use it at the time because we didn’t have a positive case. But people [at other homes] were using them because they thought they had been delivered to use [as a preventive measure].’

Peterborough City Council also provided four days’ worth of gloves and aprons after it set up a Covid-19 response team. But there were no goggles or face masks as they were no longer in stock – they had already been sent to NHS hospitals.

Mrs Smit said: ‘The Government should have had a contingency plan.’ No sick residents were turned away from hospital – but the home was usually told to keep them in their care. Those who were ill were assessed by a GP [remotely], or by paramedics or call handlers on the 111 service.

Mr Graham said: ‘We were told they had to stay at the home because they were reaching the end of their life.’

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