Under fire Health Secretary Matt Hancock has insisted he told the Prime Minister people would be tested for coronavirus before being moved from hospitals to care homes “when we could do it”.
Mr Hancock told a Downing Street briefing on Thursday that it was not possible to test everyone being sent from hospitals into care homes at the start of the pandemic because the capacity was not available.
His comments came a day after the Prime Minister’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings told MPs that Government claims about putting a shield round care homes were “complete nonsense”.
Mr Cummings also claimed Boris Johnson was furious to discover that untested patients had been discharged to care homes, alleging that Mr Hancock had told them both that people being discharged would be tested.
But when asked if he had told the Prime Minister and Mr Cummings that everyone going from hospitals to care homes would be tested, Mr Hancock said: “My recollection of events is that I committed to delivering that testing for people going from hospital into care homes when we could do it.
“I then went away and built the testing capacity for all sorts of reasons and all sorts of uses, including this one, and then delivered on the commitment that I made.”
The Government told care homes to isolate anyone who was known to be Covid-19 positive in their own room, despite some care home leaders having since said that they were not set up for this.
Allowing patients to be discharged to care homes also meant people who were asymptomatic were in a position to spread the virus.
Government documents show there was no requirement to test patients being discharged from hospital into a care home until April 15 2020.
Guidance dated April 2 said people who were Covid-19 positive could be discharged to care homes and recommended they were isolated.
It added: “Negative tests are not required prior to transfers/admissions into the care home.”
Guidance in place until March 13 further stated that community transmission was so low it was “very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected”.
When asked at the Downing Street briefing on Thursday if sending people back to care homes untested was his “biggest regret”, Mr Hancock said: “I have answered this question many, many times, because we didn’t have the testing capacity at the start of the pandemic, it wasn’t possible.
“What I am very proud of is we built that testing capacity, but it took time.”
Reacting to the press conference, Dr Mike said Hancock was “not telling the truth today”, adding that there was “no shield” around the elderly.
There was no shield.— Dr. Mike 😷Wear a mask😷 (@EmergMedDr) May 27, 2021
People may not love Cummings but he is 100% correct that there was no shield and Matt saying there was a shield just highlights his lack of truthfulness
Piers Morgan tended to agree, as did many others.
Matt Hancock is lying about protecting care homes and we all know he’s lying.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 27, 2021
But how can Boris Johnson fire someone for lying?
Three times Matt Hancock has been asked if he did tell PM that patients would be tested before being transferred from hospital to care homes. Three times he has dodged giving an answer. I’m afraid we have to conclude he did.— Tim Montgomerie 🇬🇧 (@montie) May 27, 2021
"I built the testing capacity," says Matt Hancock. All by himself?— Prof Alice Roberts💙 (@theAliceRoberts) May 27, 2021
Doubt a single journalist in the world would have watched that Hancock presser without smelling blood.— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) May 27, 2021