Amnesty International has accused the government of a series of ‘shockingly irresponsible’ decisions, which put the lives of care home residents at risk during the early months of the pandemic.
In a damning report, the human rights organisation claims thousands of untested patients were discharged into care homes and staff were left without guidance, PPE or access to testing.
Amnesty has now called for a full independent public inquiry and a review of visiting guidelines.
An investigation by the group’s crisis response team found there was a ‘complete breakdown’ of systems in the first six weeks of the pandemic.
Care home managers and staff told the team there were delays in receiving guidance, problems accessing PPE, and they had no access to testing, despite having to manage infected patients urgently discharged from hospitals.
And the report claims on 17 March, four days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the government ordered the discharge of 25,000 patients from hospitals into care homes, including those infected or possibly infected with COVID-19.
Several care home managers told Amnesty that they had no COVID-19 in their homes until after they received patients discharged from hospital.
In July, the chair of the public accounts select committee, Meg Hillier warned care homes had been ‘effectively thrown to the wolves’ in a report into the first few months of the pandemic.
‘The government made a series of shockingly irresponsible decisions which abandoned care home residents to die,’ said Amnesty International UK’s director, Kate Allen.
‘Discharged without being tested, thousands of older people were sent to care homes at great risk to themselves and other residents and to staff.
‘The appalling death toll was entirely avoidable – it is a scandal of monumental proportions,’ added Ms Allen.
‘As the country faces a second wave of coronavirus, we urgently need a full independent public inquiry into the care home scandal, so that lessons can be learned and lives protected, before any more lives are lost.’
In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘From the start of the pandemic we have been doing everything we can to ensure care home residents and staff are protected.
‘This includes testing all residents and staff, providing over 228 million items of PPE, ring-fencing over £1.1bn to prevent infections in care homes and making a further £3.7bn available to councils to address pressures caused by the pandemic – including in adult social care.’
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