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No justification for Boris Johnson’s care home coronavirus claim, says disease expert

PUBLISHED: 16:42 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:42 07 July 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson: Pic: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Prime minister Boris Johnson: Pic: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s comments that “too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures” in dealing with coronavirus had no justification, says a Norfolk expert in infectious diseases.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia. Photo: UEAPaul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia. Photo: UEA

And the county’s director of adult social care said care homes did “excellent work” and the government’s focus should be on better funding and reform of social care in the future.

Mr Johnson has come in for criticism from the care sector after he said: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have, but we’re learning lessons the whole time.”

One national charity boss called the comments “clumsy and cowardly”.

And Prof Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, who has researched the spread in Norfolk’s care homes, said: “I don’t think there was any justification in what the prime minister said. The big problems in care homes were down to two main reasons.

James Bullion, director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County CouncilJames Bullion, director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County Council

“The first was that the NHS, in clearing beds, moved people into care homes without testing for COVID-19, so the infections were transferred into care homes.

“Then, for many weeks, care homes were not provided with, or did not have access to, sufficient personal protective equipment.”

James Bullion, director of adult social care at Norfolk County Council, who previously said social care had been treated as an ‘afterthought’ by the government, said: “Social care has been hit hard by COVID-19 and it feels right that we should acknowledge the excellent work care homes did in the initial response to the pandemic, following the guidance published at the time.

“However, the prime minister is right to say the solution lies in funding and reforming social care, so that we can all get the care and support that we want, now and in the future. Social care reform must be the government’s number one post COVID-19 priority.”

Steve Dorrington, who runs care homes in Wells, Watton and Dereham. Picture: Ian BurtSteve Dorrington, who runs care homes in Wells, Watton and Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt

Steve Dorrington, who has care homes in Dereham, Wells and Watton, said it was “a bit off” to lay the blame on care homes. But he said: “I do think Boris sometimes blasts off without thinking, so I think the criticism of the government is a bit unfair.”

He said his homes had remained coronavirus free, which he attributed to a general no visitor policy, use of PPE, testing for residents and staff and not using agency staff.


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