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Local MP responds to news that the Government ignored warnings from social care sector about pandemic preparedness two years ago

Following the news reported by The Guardian newspaper that, over two years ago, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) recommended improvements in care homes to be better prepared for a pandemic were not “picked up” by the Government, Matt Western MP has said the Government and local authorities “had abandoned care homes from the beginning.”

It comes as the ONS released the latest figures on deaths up to the 1st May, and analysis by the FT shows there has been a 76% increase in deaths compared to the five-yearly average for the same period in the West Midlands. This translates to an extra 5,600 deaths and is higher than the UK average of 60%. Elsewhere, in Warwickshire care homes there has officially been 104 care home Covid-19 deaths, and over 21 of those in Warwick District alone. In contrast, deaths from all causes were 294 and 173 respectively.

Matt, the Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington, said:

“We are beginning to see the timeline of continued failures from this Government on getting a grip on this crisis. It began with the general pandemic preparedness operation ‘Cygnus’ in 2016 in which we failed the test to deal with an outbreak effectively – including the need to boost care home capacity. Now we know that the social care sector warned two years ago that we needed more PPE and a better solution to isolate cases and stop the spread.

“We now know that these warnings were not acted on and exactly what was predicted has happened. We also know that we have been far too slow at testing residents, meaning many of these deaths will have died from Covid-19, but not reported as such.

“These latest devastating figures just illustrate the failures in being able to isolate the cases in care homes and the continual failures in providing sufficient protective equipment for the staff treating these residents.

“Shockingly, Public Health England’s guidance in March said that care homes were “very unlikely” to see an outbreak of Covid-19. At the same time, the WHO declared a global pandemic and people were already dying in the UK. Locally, Warwickshire County Council were slow to prioritise social care in important Covid-19 response meetings – omitting the issue of social care completely – until I intervened. This shows that the authorities have abandoned care homes from the beginning.

“The Government and authorities have been failing to get PPE to the frontline. The Alzheimer’s Society found 43% of care homes are still not confident of their PPE supply. In the region, there are many businesses that I have been liaising with that are able to produce PPE at scale but have been stonewalled by the Government.

“The answer is obvious; let’s requisition suitable empty properties (like hotels) and utilise the Birmingham Nightingale Hospital, instead of dismantling it, to treat and isolate Covid-19 cases, so they are away from others and will limit transmission, and ramp up British production of PPE.

“I will continue to do all I can to shed light on the authorities’ failings with social care and provide solutions to genuinely save lives.”