The damning report by MPs into hospital patients in England being discharged into care homes without a Covid-19 test reinforces the need for a public inquiry, sooner rather than later, into the government’s handling of the pandemic, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Wednesday 29 July).
The influential cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused ministers of being slow to support social care during the crisis. The initial decision to allow untested patients into care homes was an ‘appalling error’.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The committee’s findings are a welcome first step, but MPs need to dig deeper into the long-standing crisis in social care.
“Covid-19 has heightened attention on the underlying shortcomings in the social care system that have been building up for decades.
“The pain and distress of families whose elderly relatives died in care homes because of the government’s flawed policy will be forever etched in the nation’s memory.
“We need swift government action on the broken business model, so prevalent in the world of privatised care, with measures to tackle the underpayment of the workforce and, what Unite members tell us, measures to address the inadequate training they receive in such areas as infection control.
“The social care sector is predicated on an environment of insecure work leading to multiple work placements.
“The workforce needs job security, decent pay that recognises their skills and assurances on the basics, such as adequate PPE and sanitation provisions.
“There also needs to be a safeguarding structure for workers disproportionately at risk, such as those from the BAEM communities.
“Today, Unite repeats its call for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.
“This inquiry should happen, sooner rather than later, as we suspect that Boris Johnson wants to play for time before such an inquiry is set-up as it will expose the lamentable failings of his government during this national emergency which has seen more than 45,000 lives lost to Covid-19.”
The PAC said about 25,000 patients were discharged into care homes in England between mid-March and mid-April to free up hospital beds. After initially saying a negative result was not required before discharging patients, the government then said in mid-April all patients would be tested.

Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble

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