"People lost lives and we know they lost lives unnecessarily and prematurely and had the government put in robust systems that wouldn’t have happened.”
The director of the National Care Association has said health secretary Matt Hancock should ‘consider his position’ after Dominic Cummings accused him of lying over his handling of the pandemic.
Boris Johnson’s former top aide made a series of bombshell revelations earlier this week, claiming that government mistakes had led to ‘tens of thousands’ of unnecessary deaths during the pandemic, in a seven hour appearance before the Commons Health and Social Care and Science and Technology committees.
Cummings told MPs: “Hancock told us in the Cabinet Room that people were going to be tested before they went back to care homes… We only subsequently found out that that hadn’t happened.”
He added that the health secretary should’ve been ‘sacked for at least 15-20 things’.
Anita Astle of the National Care Association, which represents small and medium sized care providers and affiliated local associations, said Cummings’ testimony didn’t come as a shock for those working in the care sector because they knew they were ‘lied to and there was no protective ring around us’.
Astle told LFF: “People lost lives and we know they lost lives unnecessarily and prematurely and had the government put in robust systems that wouldn’t have happened.”
Asked whether she thought Hancock should resign, she said: “I think he should consider his position.
“He knows what’s happened. He knows what he did and I think there should be a public inquiry to investigate it, it should be an independent inquiry and it should look into all of the actions that were taken by the government to see whether they were appropriate and if they did serve citizens well.”
Boris Johnson has previously said that a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic will start in spring 2022 to ‘rigorously and candidly’ look at what mistakes the UK government made during the coronavirus pandemic.
Astle said the inquiry had to happen a lot sooner.
“Why would you wait till 2022 when this happened in 2020, it needs to be done now and it needs to be done so that in any future pandemic we’ve learnt from this one,” she said.
She also hit out at austerity which she says had an impact on the country’s preparedness for a pandemic.
“If we look back at the amount of people that were brought back into senior positions in social services throughout the NHS, those people that were retired that were brought back were brought back because one, we didn’t have sufficient man power but also because we didn’t have the significant knowledge and expertise that was required.
“Those two things are down to austerity measures, not investing in people not investing in services and so obviously that’s had an impact. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen again in future.”
Astle also hit out at the initial guidance provided to care homes describing it as ‘nonsensical’.
She said: “Time and time again and it continues to happen now, we get guidance that’s released at 9 o’clock 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock midnight on a Friday night, Saturday night or Sunday.
“It comes into effect on the Monday. Now services do not have the time to one consider all the aspects of that guidance and how they’re going to translate that into practice and they have no time to train and educate their staff and to allay staff’s anxieties around the guidance.
“So when I say that guidance was lacking that’s why it was lacking.”
Hancock has insisted that the government has been ‘straight with the British people’ throughout the pandemic and that it had worked as ‘hard as it could to protect people in care homes.’
Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward
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