Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised a £600 million package for coronavirus infection control in care homes in England as he admitted that the number of deaths among residents has been “too high”.
The Prime Minister insisted the number of outbreaks and fatalities in care homes is now “well down”, as he sought to defend his handling of the crisis, after being challenged by Labour leader Keir Starmer that the government had been “too slow to protect people in care homes”.
Boris Johnson said: “A huge exercise in testing is going on. A further £600m I can announce today for infection control in care homes. The number of outbreaks is down and the number of fatalities in care homes is now well down. We are making progress”.
Figures released on Tuesday suggested that care home deaths accounted for some 40% of coronavirus-related fatalities registered in England and Wales in the week ending May 1.
During PMQs, Keir asked: “Does the prime minister accept that the government was too slow to protect people in care homes?”
In response, Mr Johnson said it “wasn’t true that the advice said that”.
He added: “And actually we brought the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown and what we’ve seen is a concerted action plan to tackle what is unquestionably been an appalling epidemic in care homes.”
Refuting the Prime Ministers Sir Keir wrote a letter to Mr Johnson after PMQs challenging him to return to the House of Commons to “correct the record”.
The letter said: “At this time of national crisis, it is more important than ever that government ministers are accurate in the information they give.
“Given this, I expect you to come to the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity to correct the record and to recognise that this was official government guidance regarding care homes.”
Responding to the £600 million of funding, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“Care homes are where the major battle with COVID-19 is now raging and we have neglected it for too long. More money for infection control and the extra support from the NHS should alleviate some of the incredible pressure facing care homes now.
“But distribution has been a major problem throughout this crisis, so let’s make sure the money goes where it is most needed, with local leaders involved.
“Again, we had more promises to make sure care workers have access to testing and proper PPE. It is getting better, but we need all staff to be confident that they have the right equipment and the right training to use it, when they need it.
“All of this just shows yet again that we need fundamental reform, which, as well as proper funding, will make care homes and home care part of one system with the NHS.
“When this is over, it will be time to tackle our collective failure to address social care, which is nothing short of a national disgrace.”
Cllr David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network, said: “Every death from coronavirus is a personal tragedy, and the number of those passing away from catching the virus in care settings is uncomfortably high. Therefore, we welcome today’s announcement over infection control, and we await further details on how the £600m funding should be used and distributed between councils.”