There has never been a “concerted effort to move people out of NHS beds into care homes”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told MPs.
In response to a question from former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Mr Johnson said he did not get any advice that discharging hospital patients to care homes could spread coronavirus.
Mr Johnson, who was being questioned by the Commons Liaison Committee, said: “It’s just not true that there was some concerted effort to move people out of NHS beds into care homes, that’s just not right.”
His statement comes after NHS trust leaders told NHS Providers they had consistently followed Government guidance and only discharged known or suspected coronavirus patients if care homes had capacity to safely care for them.
The trust leaders stated they “strongly refute” suggestions their actions have led to excess mortality in care homes.
Suggestions that NHS trusts had knowingly and systematically discharged Covid-19 patients into care homes to free up beds are “damaging and mistaken”, a report published last week found.
NHS England and Improvement instructed trusts on March 17 to urgently discharge all medically-fit patients from hospital as soon as it was clinically safe to do so.
On April 2, the Department for Health and Social Care said some admissions may have symptomatic or asymptomatic Covid-19 – but could be safely cared for in care homes, and that negative tests were not required prior to transfer.
It was not until April 15 that trusts were told they would need to test every single patient prior to discharge to a care home.
Trust leaders acknowledged there may have been a small number of asymptomatic patients inadvertently transferred into care homes, but that this did not occur knowingly.
NHS Providers believe the “substantial majority” of trusts agreed new discharge arrangements with care sector partners, which went above and beyond the then-current advice.
Having quickly became aware of this risk, within days of the March 17 guidance trust leaders said they had agreed to test all discharges, and for those awaiting test results to be isolated using the options available for people with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
The number of Covid-19-related deaths that took place in care homes stood at 1,660 in the week ending May 15 in England and Wales, compared with 1,666 in the previous seven days, according to Office for National Statistics data.
The proportion of deaths in care homes that involved coronavirus fell to 37%, from 39% the previous week.
The Health Foundation has said that protecting those needing social care should be “given more obvious priority”.