A recent study has revealed that the national death toll in care homes could hit 34,000 by the end of June. In the light of this, Horsham Lib Dems were extremely concerned to learn that according to the Office for National Statistics 45% of Horsham’s COVID-19 deaths were in care homes, compared with the national average of 30.6%.
Other authorities in West Sussex are faring even worse, with 60% of Worthing’s and 57% of Mid-Sussex’s COVID-19 deaths occurring in care homes. Such alarming statistics have led to accusations of neglect by West Sussex County Council of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
While steps have certainly been taken to provide additional funds and protective equipment since the outbreak, these figures are the inevitable result of years of chronic underfunding. The damage to the resilience of West Sussex care homes could not be undone in the short time available following the outbreak of COVID-19. Medical professionals have been particularly critical of the privatisation of care homes, which left many of them running on insufficient budgets and unable to cope with any increased pressure.
The author of the recent national report into care home deaths, William Laing, has said that the “[treatment of care home residents is a] scandal which is just emerging”. He believes a series of government failings were behind the high number of excess deaths, especially the decision to move patients out of hospitals and into care homes without knowing the coronavirus status of the patient.
Layla Moran, Lib Dem MP, has said that “this has become the biggest scandal of the whole pandemic. Those responsible will need to be held to account in an inquiry once the crisis is over.”