Johnson falsely claims coronavirus patients weren’t sent to care homes

His claim is contradicted by government guidelines.

Boris Johnson has falsely claimed that no coronavirus victims were discharged from hospitals to care homes.

When questioned by Jeremy Hunt, Johnson said huge effort was made to protect care homes and that every decision to discharge patients was made by clinicians.

“In no case was this done when people were suspected of being coronavirus victims,” he told parliament’s liason committee.

But a UK government directive to care homes, issued on 2 April said that the NHS would seek to discharge more patients to care homes than normal.

It also said that care homes should accept coronavirus patients, even if they had not completed the 14-day isolation period.

The directive said that staff in contact with these patients should wear protective equipment – although carers have complained this was not always available.

The Department of Health has also said on 5 May that care home residents who have tested positive for coronavirus will be discharged to care homes.

So Johnson is wrong to say there were no cases of people suspected of having coronavirus being discharged to care homes. In fact, government policy was to discharge people confirmed to have coronavirus to care homes.

This is supported by care workers’ union Unison. Their assistant general secretary Christina McAnea told Left Foot Forward: “Care workers have repeatedly told us of Covid patients being sent into their homes from hospital, when they were ill equipped to deal with them.

As well as people suspected/confirmed to have coronavirus, hospitals sent people to care homes when they did not know if they had coronavirus as they had not been tested.

Care home residents are often in and out of hospital for various non-coronavirus reasons but parts of a hospital are where you are most likely to catch coronavirus.

The National Care Association, which represents care homes, has complained about this lack of testing.

In a statement on 14 May, it said: “Despite consistent lobbying the decision was taken by government not to test staff or residents in care homes whilst actively discharging patients out of the NHS, untested, into social care settings.”

And on a local level, the policy has caused many unpleasant situations as well as deaths. Susan Mckinney, who runs 14 care homes in Newcastle, told the BBC: “We had an incident on 10 April where twice we rang the hospital saying ‘we can’t accept this person back, we need them tested, we need a negative test so we know what we’re dealing with’.”

“They turned up at the door in an ambulance and refused to go away. There was a stand-off at the door where the family turned up, the paramedics had the poor resident on a stretcher at the door until we allowed them in. All we got is ‘you’re not following the guidelines’. It’s the guidelines, not the law.”

And even when hospital patients were tested, they were sometimes discharged to care homes before the test results had come back.

Michelle Wray is the manager of the Roseland Court care home in Cornwall. She told the BBC that a resident returned to the home from hospital at 9am but staff weren’t told until 5pm that he had coronavirus. The resident died shortly after and Wray said they were losing two or three patients a day at one point.

The resident’s son, Gary Lemin told the BBC: “If you’re going to send somebody back into a care home with a positive test for coronavirus then that’s a ridiculous situation – that should never happen.”

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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