Ministers have been accused of abandoning Britain’s most vulnerable people, after dropping a pledge to test all people in care homes regularly through the summer.
In a leaked memo sent to local authority chiefs on Friday night, Professor Jane Cummings – the government’s adult social care testing directly – said “previously advised timelines for rolling out regular testing in care homes” were being scrapped due to “unexpected delays”, the Sunday Times reports.
Two million residents and staff in care homes were supposed to have been tested for Covid-19 regularly from 6 July. But Professor Cummings has now said that widespread testing would not be available in care homes for older people and those with dementia until September.
Other care homes will only be able to order test kits from 31 August.
Dr Rachel Clarke – a palliative care physician and writer – called the revelations “sickening”.
Writing on Twitter, she said: “The government has already abandoned care homes once. Now they are at it again. Our most vulnerable citizens – ignored & abandoned. Again.”
A senior public health official told the paper that more lives would “undoubtedly” be lost as a result.
Regular testing in care homes was demanded by scientists on the Sage committee, to prevent asymptomatic people spreading the virus between homes.
Another memo circulated among health officials last week revealed that 64 per cent of homes for the elderly or those with dementia had not had a round of ‘asymptomatic’ testing.
Of 9,144 homes, just 3,271 were reportedly sent testing equipment.
Last week the decision to allow hospital patients to be discharged to care homes without a coronavirus test was labelled an “appalling error” by MPs.
A highly-critical report from the Public Accounts Committee said described the policy as “reckless”, accusing ministers of “belatedly” changing track in April and being too slow to support social care during the crisis.