Questions for Johnson over claims care homes were pandemic ‘afterthought’

Boris Johnson is facing renewed questions over his efforts to protect vulnerable care home residents from coronavirus after Labour used a new report to claim the sector was an ‘afterthought’ in the outbreak. Whitehall’s spending watchdog confirmed on Friday that 25,000 hospital patients were discharged into care homes in England at the height of the pandemic without all being tested for Covid-19. And the National Audit Office (NAO) added that the central stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) lacked items such as gowns and visors, despite an independent committee recommending their inclusion last year. Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt joined Labour MPs in criticising the Government, saying it was “extraordinary that no one appeared to consider the clinical risk to care homes”. Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons public accounts committee, said: “Residents and staff were an afterthought yet again: out of sight and out of mind, with devastating consequences.” Mr Hunt, who chairs the Commons health and social care committee, said: “Whilst the impact of such discharges meant the NHS was never short of beds or ventilators it seems extraordinary that no one appeared to consider the clinical risk to care homes despite widespread knowledge that the virus could be carried asymptomatically.” Labour MP Ms Hillier added that frontline health workers had been “badly let down by the Government’s failure to prepare properly” over the report’s findings on PPE. In other developments: – Ministers were facing calls to immediately publish Public Health England recommendations on how to protect black, Asian and minority ethnic communities from Covid-19.