In the Commons, the shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, called on Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, to apologise for the Prime Minister’s “crass remarks”, while Labour’s Barbara Keeley asked: “Does the Secretary of State accept that care home providers cannot be blamed for the deaths of their residents?”
Downing Street declined to apologise for the Prime Minister’s remarks. Asked what he had meant, a Number 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.”
Kate Terroni, the CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, said: “We reduced the number of physical inspections in order to limit the number of people going in and out of care homes, but we’ve continued to inspect where we have serious concerns about care, and have conducted nearly 50 inspections during lockdown.
“In some of these cases, we’ve taken action in response to poor care, but we have also seen lots of examples of staff going to extraordinary lengths to protect the people in their care.”
Frontline care workers at Bessingby Hall, a care home in Bridlington, Yorkshire, believe around 10 residents have died from coronavirus since the pandemic arrived in March.
According to an official complaint to the CQC submitted by Unison, staff believe their managers at the home “failed in their duty of care” to reduce the risk from the virus.
The grievance accuses the home of allowing staff to share face visors made by a local school, while dementia patients were allowed to wander between different parts of the home.
“One gentleman with coronavirus on the unit still had access to five bedrooms on this corridor, with the possibility of going into those five other bedrooms, which he did,” the complaint states.
Managers also allegedly failed to follow Government guidance for care homes by telling staff they were not eligible for a test.
“Constant threats of P45 in handovers or meetings. Staff told not to get tested as it means time off, ” the complaint states.
Managers also allegedly “delayed telling staff of coronavirus cases”, leading to unwitting transmission of the disease.
“The employees believe immediate action is required in order to reduce further deaths and staff infection from coronavirus ,” the union writes in the official grievance.
“Unison believes there has been a minimum of 10 coronavirus-related deaths at the home, and it is clear given the staff observations and evidence that management have failed in their duty of care to both residents and staff to follow Government guidelines to minimise the risk of the virus.”
A spokesman for Burlington Care did not respond to requests for comment. A source at the CQC said the home was being “monitored” but had not been subject to an emergency inspection.