Lisa Lenton’s blog: Boris Johnson care home comments – gaffe or calculated opportunity to shift blame?

ARC England Director Lisa Lenton

ARC England Director Lisa Lenton

Blog update from ARC Director Lisa Lenton
July 2020

Since the last edition of Real People there have been many developments – both steps forward and steps back… the testing strategy was unveiled, Vivaldi study results published and Boris Johnson’s controversial comments on the care sector.

I welcome the unveiling of a testing strategy – it has been a long time coming.  The starting point for regular testing is within care homes that support older people and people living with dementia – we all know why – due to the number of deaths in these services. I am heartened that there is also acknowledgement that regular testing needs to be broadened out to more services, with a mention of Supported Living; maybe not as quickly as we’d like but this is still a step forward. Without this regular monitoring we are in the dark, so let’s shine some light on the reality of the situation we are facing.

You may have seen the Vivaldi Study results announced last week. It was clear that there is a huge concern around the number of people, both residents and staff, who are asymptomatic. The study shows staff are more likely than residents to test positive for Covid while displaying no symptoms – we are still fighting an “invisible mugger”. This highlights yet again the importance of adherence to PPE usage guidelines and that masks and other PPE are crucial in limiting transmission. No doubt we’ll start to see increasing usage in the general population too. What this also points to is the importance of minimising staff movement between services, and providers have been written to about this. We are learning as the situation evolves – knowledge is power as they say – but with power comes great responsibility, for all of us in battling against this virus.

On the subject of great responsibility, I was appalled to hear the Prime Minister’s comments on the news this week: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have….”. Now, in my opinion, this was a gaffe rather than a calculated opportunity to point the finger of blame. Either way, what the PM said was wrong, ill-informed and offensive. We in the sector know very well that guidance was slow to come and was often confusing, the availability of PPE was a huge challenge and there have been a number of people discharged from hospital and admitted to care homes without a Covid test. This was a recipe for disaster for people who needed care, support and protection the most.

Mr Johnson did go on to say “…but we’re learning lessons the whole time”, and on that point I would agree. I don’t believe the sector is ‘in recovery’ just yet; there is still a lot we have to do to keep people safe each day, more to learn, experiences to share and to prepare for any second wave. Now, more than ever, collaboration and partnership working are needed to keep on battling against coronavirus – and the adult social care sector continues to be on the frontline.

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