Care homes – the new Killing Fields

A year ago, the UK had the first death from Covid-19. Within weeks, it was clear to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) that community transmission was the biggest problem in getting this new virus under control. The NHS had already called a “Level 4 incident” because it was in the process of being overrun. One of the solutions was to empty hospitals of all those who did not need immediate and emergency treatment – on 19 March, the NHS ordered the discharge of 15,000 patients into the communities, untested, including into care & nursing homes, to free up beds. Public Health England stood by its guidance from end-February that it “remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected”. The discharge order included the instruction that care home residents would not be re-admitted to hospital should they become ill with whatever. They would have to die in their residence.

The country went into its first lockdown on 23 March; around the same time, NHS trusts were ordering GPs and care homes to place DNAR/DNRCPR orders into their residents’ files. “Do not attempt resuscitation” orders are signed by either the patient or the family, after consultation and consent. Numerous examples exist where care home residents did not understand what they signed and families were not informed, but the DNARs followed them everywhere.

On 2 April, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published new guidance saying negative tests for Covid-19 were not necessary to transfer people from hospitals to care homes. A fortnight later, the government’s policy paper “Covid-19: Action plan for adult social care” confirmed that patients who had tested positive would be sent into care homes regardless. At that point, protective equipment was not available for care home workers or residents; neither were tests.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock stood in the House of Commons on 15 May and declared: “From the start, we have worked hard to protect those in social care. We will keep working to strengthen the protective ring that we have cast around all of our care homes.”

By that time, at least 20,000 care home workers and residents had died within that ‘protective ring.’

Let that sink in for a moment. 20,000. Dead. While the government “protected” them.

Now, we are peaking the third wave in our third lockdown. Every organisation and group remotely dealing with the known Covid-19 issues in care homes – operators, workers, unions, families of residents – have lambasted Hancock for his statement and the government for their handling of the situation last spring. Amnesty International published a report laying out human rights violation by the government; a similar report by the House of Commons & House of Lords calls some government responses, like blanket DNARs, unlawful.

And what do our glorious leaders decide to do? The exact same thing as in March – discharge patients into care homes without testing them first.

The DHSC has now published guidance saying that patients who either had a positive test or showed symptoms and have now finished their 14-day isolation period are to be discharged into care homes.

Untested.

Never mind that there is a new strain out there that gets transmitted twice as fast as the original, and that seems to be more deadly than the first one. Never mind that there is still no regular testing in every care home for every patient or staff. Never mind that anyone can get infected twice. Let’s just kill the old and frail ones. First by sending Covid-19 straight into their residences. Then by not following the science and just extending the interval between first and second vaccine shot, because why not. And now by sending Covid-19 straight back into their residences again.

Care homes are once again turned into the UK’s Killing Fields by government policy. Last July, Boris Johnson blamed the excess death rate in care on the care homes themselves: “Too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have,” was his comment in an interview.

Let’s see who he’ll blame this time.