EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: This government will be held accountable for many deaths

I know the heartache and pain felt when you make that decision to put a relative, someone you love dearly into a care home.

The guilt, even though you know it is the right thing to do, never goes away.

I was lucky though, the people I loved I was able to visit as often as I wanted and I was able to speak face to face with my Gran’s carers. Throughout this pandemic every week I speak to heartbroken constituents who have lost loved ones in a care home, their anger is understandable and palpable.

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Over 16,000 care home residents have died from coronavirus. The first recorded case of this virus in the UK was at the end of January, yet appallingly, it wasn’t until the 15th April that the government put in place requirements to test patients being discharged from hospitals into care homes.

Prior to that point the policy was one of freeing up hospital beds by postponing all non-urgent procedures and discharging patients, including those who live in care homes. For some unknown reason, (because the government keep refusing to answer) the Nightingale hospitals, whose entire purpose was to give that extra capacity, appear to have never been used. Instead the government used care homes to free up hospital beds.

Even at the beginning of April, when care home providers, staff and families of residents were raising alarm bells, the government issued guidance that said ‘negative tests are not required prior to transfers/ admissions into the care home’

Many of these homes, through no fault of their own, had limited PPE and limited infection control in place. Yet it took until mid-April for the government to listen to their pleas for help and decide that all patients being discharged into care homes would need to be tested regardless of being symptomatic or not. But the guidance didn’t go as far as to state they needed to wait for the test result to come back before discharge nor did it state if the patient does have coronavirus they are not to be admitted. Instead they claimed some care homes could effectively isolate those individuals in their room. Care homes where staff are caring for multiple residents without appropriate PPE increasing the risk of spreading of the virus to other residents.

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I know the staff at the homes aren’t to blame for this, they care deeply for their residents and become very attached to them. They too are grieving, struggling and putting their lives at risk, they need some mental health support as the long-term effects of the impossible position this government has placed them in is unforgivable.

For all of those who I have spoken to, this is not the end.

Labour is calling for a Public Inquiry and this could be followed by legal action via individuals or groups of grieving families.

This government, rightly, will be held accountable for the avoidable deaths of thousands of care home patients and the deaths of those who cared for them.