Revealed: Care home warnings that Matt Hancock ignored in pandemic – Tom Richmond

MATT HANCOCK makes out that he does not recognise the criticism levelled against him by Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings at Parliament’s ‘lessons learned’ inquiry into the pandemic.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.

He should have done. Leaving aside the Cummings claims that Hancock is a serial liar, most of what the strategist revealed was not new – it had been set out in a letter which North Yorkshire care home boss Mike Padgham wrote to the Health Secretary in April last year.

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First, Cummings told MPs claims the Government put a protective shield around care homes at the start of the pandemic were “complete nonsense”.

Mike Padgham (right) visits his 93-year-old mother Phyllis Padgham (centre) with Activities Assistant Charlotte Henderson (left) at St Cecilia's Nursing Home in Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

They were. The Padgham letter warned: “Care and nursing homes have been taking people in through their doors whether they have Covid-19 or not and have been ill-equipped to cope.”

Cummings also accused Hancock of being complacent over the sourcing of PPE equipment. Again not new – Padgham said the availability of supplies for 400,000 care workers had been “appalling”.

Then the supposedly revelatory claim that care homes were effectively forgotten. True – but the Cabinet minister was first warned by Padgham that “without social care pulling out all the stops, the impact of Covid-19...would have been much worse”.

Boris Johnson's former aide Dominic Cummings has launched a ferocious attack on Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary.

Why does this context matter? First, the portrayal of Cummings as some kind of hero is misguided; he, too, should have spoken out at the time if he was so concerned. He was in power at the time.

Second, and most importantly, Hancock would not have been left so brutally exposed if he – and those running his office – had actually had had the courtesy to respond to Padgham who heads North Yorkshire’s Independent Care Group.

I made this point at the time – a Minister on top of their brief has a team of people in place to handle such correspondence, especially submissions from those on the front line desperate to help Hancock as Covid-infected patients were discharged from hospital into ill-prepared care homes with the most tragic of consequences.

Even now, the Department of Health and Social Care is unable to say when a reply will be forthcoming.

“I’ll ask about it,” a spokesperson told me on Sunday. When she did respond the next day with a bland statement, there was no mention of when Hancock intends to reply.

I’m still waiting after another prompt. Either she isn’t bothered because she’s so accustomed, like her boss, to ignoring awkward questions – or, quite possibly, is embarrassed by Hancock trying to portray himself as a “one-man government” who only wears his so-called ‘care’ badge for cosmetic PR purposes.

As Padgham concluded his letter: “I do hope that when this is all over you will meet with me and I can put my ideas for positive change forward personally.”

That open invitation to Hancock and also Boris Johnson still stands, I’m told. The question is whether they have the common sense and humility to show that they’re sincere and serious over social care. At the moment, they’re not worthy of public trust on this defining issue.

NOT only did Gavin Williamson – who, I’m ashamed to say, comes from Yorkshire – choose to publish the Government’s belated and half-hearted school catch-up plan in the Parliamentary recess to avoid to scrutiny, but the Education Secretary didn’t know how much this supposedly new £1.4bn equates per pupil.

It is about £50 – a tenth of the amount proposed by Sir Kevan Collins, who was drafted in by Boris Johnson to become Education Recovery Commissioner and who has now resigned from the vital role because he felt betrayed by the Government’s indifference towards the issue. Another F for failure.

MACHIAVELLIAN politics or managing expectations? The Tories, it is suggested, do not intend to contest the Batley & Spen by-election with the same verve that saw the party capture Labour’s Hartlepool stronghold last month.

The reason? They know a Tory triumph in Batley, a seat that Elizabeth Peacock represented for the Conservatives from 1983-97, would almost certainly see Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer face a leadership challenge this summer from ultra left-wingers like Leeds East MP Richard Burgon.

But there’s an increasingly strong view that Sir Keir is unelectable as prime minister and that it suits the Conservatives to keep him in play for the forseeable future. Watch this space.

SO, a rather ungracious Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett has likened the timing of Boris Johnson’s secret wedding to Carrie Symonds as “a good way to bury this week’s bad news”.

He’s clearly forgotten that this phrase became political parlance in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks 20 years ago – when Labour was in power.

FINALLY, the very best of luck to double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee and all those triathletes trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games in Leeds this weekend.

After all, it is thanks to Brownlee, his younger brother Jonny, and their contemporaries that Yorkshire is hosting a fifth world series event.

Well done to Leeds for embracing the event.

I’m also looking forward to Alistair Brownlee’s new book Relentless: Secrets of the Sporting Elite, in which he talks to great champions to discover what it takes to become – and remain – a champion.

As one of Yorkshire’s greatest ever sportsmen and role models, I just hope his fragile, injury-plagued legs hold out so he can finish his career as a winner.

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