CARE homes were “thrown to the wolves” during the pandemic, MPs have blasted.
The public accounts committee accused the Government of being “negligent” and making an “appalling” error in discharging thousands of patients to homes without being tested.
In a furious report the committee accused the Department of Health and Social Care of sending untested patients in even after becoming aware of asymptomatic infection.
Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “Our care homes were effectively thrown to the wolves, and the virus has ravaged some of them.
“The deaths of people in care homes devastated many, many families. They and we don’t have time for promises and slogans, or exercises in blame.
“We weren’t prepared for the first wave. Putting all else aside, the government must use the narrow window we have now to plan for a second wave. Lives depend upon getting our response right.”
The report claimed the pandemic has shown social care is treated as the “poor relation” of the health service, with years of “inattention, funding cuts and delayed reform”.
It also expressed concerned about staff welfare after “the strain and trauma of responding to Covid-19 for many months”.
Responding to the report, the Local Government Association claimed social care had not been made a priority.
Councillor Paulette Hamilton, vice chair of its community wellbeing board, said: “Social care has been on the frontline throughout this crisis but this report’s conclusions show that those who use, work and volunteer in these vital services were not given as much priority as the NHS from the outset.
“We cannot and must not allow any of these mistakes to be repeated again, if the country is to experience a second wave of coronavirus. Social care deserves parity of esteem with the NHS.”
The Department of Health and Social Care insisted it had worked closely with the sector and public health experts to put in place guidance and support.
It said: “Alongside an extra £1.3 billion to support the hospital discharge process, we have provided 172 million items of PPE to the social-care sector and are testing all residents and staff, including repeat testing in care homes for over-65s or those with dementia,”
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