Blame without shame
So who or what is to blame for the uncontrolled outbreaks of Covid-19 in UK care homes? Could it be the erroneous early advice from public health officials that the virus could not be spread by patients discharged from the NHS? Or maybe the lamentable lack of PPE for front line care workers? Or even the failure of ministers to read the conclusions of a major investigation conducted two years ago into the effects of a pandemic on our health and care sectors?
No, it’s none of these. According to the Prime Minister, it’s the care providers themselves who are in the dock for “failing to follow correct procedures”).
For many, Johnson sank to hitherto uncharted depths in his blatant attempt to deflect blame for the close to 20,000 deaths in care homes since the pandemic reached our shores by attacking the workers who in some cases sacrificed all to care for their residents.
Who can have anything but admiration for care home owner David Crabtree, who told ITV’s Good Morning Britain with characteristic Yorkshire candour that Johnson had “picked the wrong fight with the wrong people”?
“There was a deliberate policy to discharge anybody and everybody into care homes with or without Covid for the sake of a two bob test,” he added, before calling the PM “despicable for saying such a thing against care staff.”
Spin doctors later attempted to repair the damage by unbelievably claiming that Johnson had been misunderstood, but a subsequent refusal at Prime Minister’s Questions to apologise for the effect of his ill-judged intervention made the whole business fundamentally baffling.
But, let’s face it, there is much to be puzzled about when it comes to the decisions that emanate from behind No 10’s shiny black door.
That ministers chose to prioritise the hospitality sector over schools has raised more than a few eyebrows and merely highlighted how central alcohol consumption is to our society.
Pubs are key in spreading the virus as demonstrated overwhelmingly in the US and Johnson’s decision to throw open the bar-room doors while the R is still above safe levels in some parts of the country is highly risky.
But, from the late lockdown decision, to care homes being effectively thrown to the wolves, to Dominic Cummings’ survival in the face of universal opprobrium, the flow of poor judgement has been fast and furious.
Meanwhile, Public Health England has been marginalised and, some say, will soon be abolished, and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is not really being listened to.
Then there is the emergence of a mysterious body called the joint biosecurity centre, which is going to be in charge of Covid-19 data and, according to a prominent epidemiologist, “nobody knows who they are or where they’re getting [the data] from”.
All this as our country faces the biggest challenge of recent times and the healthcare sector is deep in uncharted waters.
The Policy Exchange and IPPR both report that 31% of people were now less likely to seek residential care for an elderly relative than before coronavirus – a finding that will surely trouble operators more than Johnson’s buffoonish insults.
The truth is that, despite chancellor Rishi Sunak’s rampant spending of public funds in an attempt to avoid the coming tidal wave of unemployment, Johnson and his sinister team of backroom advisers are rapidly losing the confidence of providers, investors and pretty much everyone else.
And that’s even before the seemingly unstoppable No Deal Brexit Express hits the buffers in less than six months’ time.
Rob Munro, editor, HealthInvestor UK