The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care provided evidence to the Joint Committees of Health and Social Care and Science and Technology.
The evidence provided covered a wide range of agendas in relation to the pandemic, and the way in which those receiving social care were prioritised within the pandemic was the subject of detailed questions.
During the session, the Secretary of State continued to quote the recently published Public Health England (PHE) Report in relation to the number of outbreaks and deaths that can be linked to hospital discharge. The chair of the Science and Technology committee, Greg Clark, described this reliance on the data providing a full picture as a ‘stretch of the imagination’. This is helpful, as the data is an incredibly partial representation of the situation within care homes.
Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum – the leading association for not for profit care providers says:
“We want the committee to go further and to reject the findings of the report and call for some independent analysis, we set this out clearly to them in joint letter dated 9th June 2021. It is not possible for this data to tell you anything meaningful about the situation that care home residents and staff were facing in March and April 2020 except that it does show that hospital based infections were brought into care homes as a result of the discharge programme and the associated lack of testing. It does not give you any comprehensive data that would allow you to determine what that ratio was, and for the Secretary of State, and a number of other officials to rely on this report to sweep away the issue around the lack of a coherent testing programme to protect those most vulnerable residents, should continue to be challenged. It is not a definitive picture and must not remain on the record as such.
“In addition, his repeated assertion that there was never a national shortage of PPE rung particularly hollow for providers who struggled to access the PPE they needed exactly because of a national shortage affecting their supply chain. It appears that he is confusing the presence (or otherwise) of PPE in the country with its ability to be accessed by the self-same care homes who were having to support people whose COVID status was unknown, having been rapidly discharged from hospital without a test. This shortage of PPE across the care home sector throughout March and April was very well known to the government, highlighted within the national and local media and indeed by providers up and down the country.
“It is likely that the evidence session will have done little for anyone who worked in social care, or indeed families and those receiving care and support, to shift their hard lived belief that social care was and remains the poor relation to the prioritisation of the health service.”