In Focus

Coronavirus: are UK care home being ‘betrayed’ again amid vaccination failures?

Care bosses say government has not delivered on jab pledge as infections soar

Bosses of care homes left devastated by Covid-19 outbreaks are pleading for the speedy rollout of vaccinations that the government had promised would be administered to residents weeks ago. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged on 10 December that all care home residents in England would be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Christmas. But Boris Johnson last week admitted during a Downing Street press briefing that just one in ten residents had been inoculated so far.

The Daily Mail has quizzed 28 care providers that together run 556 homes with around 30,000 residents. A total of 17 of the companies told the paper that “not a single resident” in their care homes had been vaccinated, with managers complaining of “haphazard and confusing” communication from health officials over when the jabs would arrive.

Almost half of all the care providers quizzed said they were currently struggling to deal with coronavirus outbreaks.

Responding to the findings, Jayne Connery, director of Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, said: “Unsurprisingly, care home residents have been betrayed again.”

Covid outbreaks in care homes more than doubled in a fortnight over the New Year. According to data from Public Health England, 503 outbreaks were reported in care homes in England in the week to 3 January, up from 304 the previous week, and 236 the week before that.

Half of all the residents at a care home in East Sussex were killed by the disease over Christmas, with more than a third of staff also testing positive. The managing director of the home, Edendale Lodge in Crowhurst, told The Guardian that “we are sitting ducks”.

The government has faced widespread scrutiny and criticism over the number of deaths in care homes during the first wave of infections after Covid hit the UK last spring.

In March, four days after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic, Downing Street ordered the discharge of 25,000 patients from hospitals into care homes, including those infected or possibly infected with Covid.

Guidance for hospital discharge at the time stated that “negative tests are not required prior to transfers/admissions into the care home”.

Hancock later promised that the government would put a “protective ring” around care homes. Yet in less than three-and-a-half months from the beginning of March, 28,186 excess deaths were recorded in care homes in England, with more than 18,500 residents confirmed to have died with Covid.

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