BORIS JOHNSON has stirred up a growing storm after saying “too many care homes” didn’t follow procedures to stem the spread of Covid-19 deaths.
The comments have sparked off an accusation that the prime minister was trying to rewrite history — weaving a “Kafkaesque alternative reality”.
Britain has one of the highest death tolls in the world from Covid-19, at more than 44,000, with around 20,000 dying in care homes, according to government statistics.
While the government has been heavily criticised by opposition politicians and some medics over the slow delivery of protective clothing and testing in care homes, Johnson appeared to suggest blame for the outbreaks lay with the care homes themselves.
“We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have, but we’re learning lessons,” Johnson said on Monday.
Mark Adams, chief executive of the charity Community Integrated Care, said he was “unbelievably disappointed” by Johnson’s comments, slamming them as “clumsy and cowardly”, adding they represented a dystopian rewriting of history.
“To get a throwaway comment almost glibly blaming the social care system, and not holding your hands up for starting too late, doing the wrong things, making mistake after mistake, it is just frankly unacceptable,” he told BBC radio.
“If this is genuinely his view, I think we’re almost entering a Kafkaesque alternative reality.”
Vic Rayner, executive director of National Care Forum, said care homes followed official guidance “to the letter” even as the government’s attention was focused on hospitals.
“There will be a lot of people within the care sector who feel that their efforts have gone unrecognised and who I think will feel rightly aggrieved that all the hard work and enormous effort they’ve put in hasn’t been acknowledged,” she told BBC.
National Care Association chair Nadra Ahmed told the Guardian that the prime minister’s comments were “a huge slap in the face for a sector that looks after a million vulnerable people, employs 1.6 million care workers and puts £45 billion into the economy every year”.
She added: “Despite the fact PPE was diverted, despite the fact we didn’t have testing in our services, despite the fact they’ve not put any money into our sector, it has worked its socks off, and it’s a huge disappointment to hear the leader of our country say what he’d said.”
Earlier, several media reports had suggested that the government’s focus on preventing emergency wards from being overwhelmed left care home residents and staff exposed to Covid-19.
Shadow care minister Liz Kendall said the prime minister’s “attempt to shift responsibility is a new low”, while accusing the government of “abandoning” care workers.
Responding to the furore, a spokesman for Johnson said: “Throughout this crisis care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.
“The PM was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.”