Our care homes are protected from pandemic; here’s how – Matt Hancock

ONE of the first things we knew about coronavirus as it began its dismal spread across the world was that it reserves its greatest impact for those who are physically weakest, especially the old.

Matt Hancock is the Health and Social Care Secretary. He addressed MPs this week on care home deaths.

In the UK, 89 per cent
of all deaths have been of those aged above 65. From the 
start, we have worked hard
to protect those in social
care.

In early March, we put £3.2bn into social care – half through the NHS and half through local authorities – and we have repeatedly set out and strengthened guidance for infection control and support.

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For anyone who has a 
loved one living in a care 
home and for all the residents and staff, I understand what 
a worrying time this has 
been.

Matt Hancock has been accused of neglecting social care.

I am glad that we have been able to protect the majority 
of homes, and we will keep working to strengthen the protective ring that we have
cast around all our care 
homes.

Last week we set out a further £600m to strengthen infection control, and this comes on top of a substantial programme of support.

First, on testing, from the
start we have tested symptomatic residents of care homes, even when testing capacity was much lower, and this has always been a top priority.

We are now testing all care home residents and staff in England – those with symptoms and those without – and this 
is being done according to clinical advice, starting with
the most vulnerable, and extending to working-age residents, too.

Matt Hancock is the Health and Social Care Secretary.

Secondly, we have strengthened the NHS support available to social care. We 
are putting in place a named clinical lead for every care
home in England and have brought NHS infection-control expertise to the sector.

Thirdly, we are making sure that local authorities play their part.

Councils are conducting daily reviews of the situation on the ground in local care homes, so that every care home gets
the support that it needs every day.

Fourthly, we are supporting care homes to get the PPE that they need.

Fifthly, we have increased
the social care workforce 
during this crisis and provided more support. Altogether, this is an unprecedented level of support for the social care system. I thank colleagues
across social care for their hard work.

We have also broken down some of the long-standing barriers, including between health and social care, and
we have learned the importance of making sure that money for social care is ring-fenced specifically for social care, as the £600m agreed last Friday has been.

On top of that, we are requiring much better data
from social care, because
partial data has bedevilled
the management of social
care for many years and
made ​policy making more difficult.

Regular information
returns are required in return
for the latest funding, and we
are looking to change the regulations to require data returns from every care
provider, so that we can
better prepare and support social care.

Our elderly care homes provide for people towards the end of their life.

They do an amazing job and deserve the praise that they have received from the public during this crisis.

Residents are looked after when they need care the most: their hands are held, their brows are mopped and they are made comfortable.

As a collective result of
our efforts – especially the
efforts of care colleagues throughout the country – 
62 per cent of care homes have had no reported cases of coronavirus.

The figures released on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics show that
the number of deaths in
care homes has fallen significantly and is down by a third in just the past week, from 2,423 to 1,666.

They confirmed that 27 per cent of coronavirus deaths in England have taken place in care homes, compared with a European average of around
half.

But whatever the figures say, we will not rest in doing whatever is humanly possible
to protect our care homes
from this appalling virus, to make sure that residents
and care colleagues have
the safety and security they deserve.

Matt Hancock is the Health and Social Care Secretary. He spoke to Parliament on Covid-19 – this is an edited version.

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