News | Published July 09 2020

PMQs: Labour leader blames government for care home deaths

During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that the government was directly to blame for the excessive Covid-19 death toll in care homes.

Sir Keir also took aim at the PM for comments he had made earlier this week, which suggested that some care homes did not follow safety procedures properly.

The Labour leader said it “rubbed salt in the wounds” of care personnel forced to work under difficult conditions, including a lack of PPE, and had left some feeling angry.

Official figures suggest that 30,000 more people died in care homes in England and Wales during the Covid-19 pandemic than during the same period of months in 2019, with two-thirds of these reported to have died because of the virus.

Johnson said that procedures and advice were constantly updated through the pandemic as more information came to light about the virus, and that he “took responsibility”.

Johnson said: “The one thing that nobody knew early on this pandemic was that the virus was being pass asymptomatically from person to person in the way that it is, and that is why the guidance and procedures changed.”

Johnson has already faced backlash from the care sector for his comments this week, and Sir Keir continued that barrage by saying that the government had made “huge mistakes” with the lack of PPE provision and adequate testing, as well as letting hospitals discharge patients into care homes without taking tests.

Sir Keir said: “By refusing to apologise the prime minister rubs salt into the wounds of the very people that he stood at his front door and clapped.

"Overall around one in 20 care home residents are estimated to have died from the virus. It's chilling.

“These are extraordinary numbers but the prime minister has consistently ducked responsibility for this. Will he accept it isn't care workers who are to blame, it's his government?"

The PM responded by thanking care workers and said that he took “full responsibility” for all decisions made during the pandemic.

Johnson said: lThe last thing I wanted to do is to blame care workers for what has happened or for any of them to think that I was blaming them.”

He added that measures were altered as understanding of the virus changed, saying: “He [Sir Keir] keeps saying that I blamed or try to blame care workers and that is simply not the case.

"The reality is that we now know things about the way coronavirus is passed from person to person without symptoms that we just didn't know."

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies [SAGE] had warned back in February that asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus was a possibility, as was transmission from people suffering only from mild symptoms.

Furthermore, health secretary Matt Hancock admitted back in April that asymptomatic transmission was proving a major challenge.

During the session, the prime minister said that NHS staff in England would continue to not be liable to pay hospital parking charges under the free arrangements, but did not guarantee that the scheme would continue long-term.

Johnson said: “The hospital car parks are free for NHS staff for this pandemic, they're free now, and we're going to get on with our manifesto commitment to make them free for patients who need them as well.

"May I suggest he takes his latest bandwagon and parks it free somewhere else."

The 2019 Conservative election manifesto pledged that hospital car parking would be made free for those in greatest need such as the disabled, as well as “frequent outpatient attenders and staff working night shifts”.

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
July 09 2020

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