Will Rising Elderly Deaths Force Politicians To Finally Sort Our Social Care Crisis?

When the nation stood at 11am for a minute’s silence to honour all the NHS and care workers who have died in the Covid-19 pandemic, it felt like a tragic but important counterpoint to the Thursday night celebrations of those who essential staff on the frontline in this battle.‌ But just an hour and a half earlier, yet more sombre news of the wider death toll emerged in the latest Office for National Statistics. But today the most ominous chart at the No.10 press conference was the one showing ‘deaths in all settings’ for the UK, with the line now firmly above France (which includes care homes in its stats). Shortages of protective equipment for care staff, a lack of testing and the timing of a ban on visits from relatives were all raised. Hancock certainly looked uncomfortable, though at least he had some good news in that testing was at such a high capacity (now 73,400 a day) that he could expandtesting to all care home staff and residents with and without symptoms. Hancock also stressed today that far from ignoring care homes, he had been alive to the danger in January, when medical advisers pointed to the high risk posed by coronavirus to the elderly.It was something he had been “focused on right from the start”. Yet many critics think the UK took its eye off the ball, through the lack of protective equipment for care homes andthe fact that it took until this month to start testing every resident with symptoms. But the bigger problem was one alluded to by both Hancock and Newton: the complexity and extra pressures of dealing with a sector that is made up of thousands of individual centres, many privately run. Under both Labour and Tory governments, many councils have been forced over the years to close old people’s homes and hand responsibility for provision to the private sector. That would be a fitting legacy for those older people due to lose their lives in coming weeks, and give a new meaning to Hancock’s tribute to “the nation’s fallen heroes”. But Prof Angela McLean, the government’s deputy chief scientific advisor, said there is “weak” evidence of a “small” beneficial effect from face coverings.‌ British Airways is set to make up to 12,000 workers redundant as it is expected to take “several years” for the airline industry to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.‌ Theresa May urged ministers to consider rising domestic abuse and mental health, as well as the economy, when deciding how quickly to lift restrictions.