Thank you to everyone who has contacted me regarding the publication of data relating to coronavirus deaths in care homes. As Shadow Minister for Disabled People, this is a subject I have been taking a close interest in and my thoughts are with everyone who has already lost a loved one.
Coronavirus is a serious public health emergency. Our health service is facing an unprecedented challenge and I am immensely grateful for the extraordinary efforts of the frontline staff who are responding to the outbreak.
I completely share your concerns that Covid-19 related deaths in care homes have not been reported in a timely manner and this is something my Labour colleagues and I have been pressing the Government on in recent days. The accurate and timely reporting of these deaths is an essential step in tackling the crisis and saving as many lives as possible. As you may have seen reported in the news, yesterday the Government finally committed to providing daily updates on these figures.
This commitment followed the publication of a letter sent by my colleague Liz Kendall (Shadow Minister for Social Care) to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, urgently requesting six key areas of action from the Government. The letter called for:
- A new intermediate care strategy for people being discharged from hospital who test positive for Covid-19, and to support struggling care homes.
- Improved access to, and priority testing for social care workers.
- Guaranteeing all care workers get the PPE they need: for domiciliary care workers and Personal Assistants employed via Direct Payments, as well as staff in residential care.
- Ensuring social care has “whatever resources it takes” to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
- New leadership for social care sector, with a new Chief Care Officer.
- Daily reporting of Covid-19 deaths outside hospital, including in care homes.
My colleagues and I will continue to press Ministers as a matter of urgency in the coming days.
More widely, I believe we need a much greater priority and focus on increasing testing for care home residents and care staff. It is crucial that greater numbers of critical workers, such as care staff, are now able to access testing and I will continue to hold the Government to account on its promise to deliver 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. Alongside this, Ministers must ensure all care home and home care staff get the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to keep them safe.