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Care homes chaos: killing under cover of Covid?

Care homes chaos: killing under cover of Covid?

Care minister Helen Whately has announced Government plans for allowing relatives ‘to visit their loved ones in care homes “multiple times a week”’, sharing ‘further details of a pilot visiting scheme in an online update’; although it was ‘unclear’ when the scheme would start, earlier this week she ‘hinted that relatives of care home residents would be treated as key workers under the pilot scheme, to allow regular visits’, telling the joint science and technology and health and social care committees that ‘she wanted to enable regular visiting, “but it must be safe”’ (‘Care homes to allow “multiple visits a week” for relatives’, Telegraph, October 17, 2020).  


Coming shortly after reports that ‘care homes have been told they will be expected to make room for Covid-19 patients discharged from hospital’ in spite of this ‘policy being blamed for the virus’s spread earlier in the year’, these proposals are baffling, especially given the Government’s intention to hold an investigation into the whole fiasco of forcing care homes to take untested patients at the beginning of the pandemic.


Alongside the care home crisis, younger disabled persons have suffered disproportionately from the Coronavirus: the Office for National Statistics has  reported that from March to July this year, ‘59 per cent of all deaths involving Covid-19 ... involved disabled people’. James Melville-Ross, the father of 17-year-old disabled twins, notes the difficulties of obtaining help despite the health needs of the disabled, but although they are frequent visitors to A&E, and ‘have survived numerous close shaves with death, seeing off extreme prematurity, dystonic storms, numerous brain operations, heart surgeries and collapsed lungs’, he says that possibly ‘the most frightening moment of this pandemic was reading that doctors were issuing Do Not Attempt Resuscitation orders for disabled patients, in order to focus their resources on patients without underlying health problems’ (“‘No wonder so many carers are at the point of breaking down’, Telegraph October 17, 2020).


Many care homes are worried that Covid fears will dent their profitability, pushing them out of business because of higher Covid-related care costs and higher death rates among residents, but in view of the great harm being done to vulnerable residents deprived of contact with family and friends, Ms Whately’s proposals are to be welcomed.  


The intentions behind the visiting scheme may be good, but this approach may be sidelined by a seemingly chaotic Government policy that is actually intent on protecting the NHS at the expense of those who need it most, seemingly careless that vulnerable individuals are being killed off by official neglect - that care home residents are being killed under cover of Covid. Thus may good intentions pave the road to Hell.