I know a bit about the care sector. Over the years my business has provided marketing services to a number of public, private and charitable organisations looking after vulnerable older people.
I’ve got a close friend and a family member who work in care homes and last week I learned of an elderly relative who’d died of coronavirus in a home.
I believe she’ll be one of tens of thousands who will die in similar settings of this awful virus but I suspect we’ll never know the true number.
It’s so easy to criticise the Government with hindsight for their handling of this uniquely challenging national emergency. Perhaps, for example, the lockdown could have happened sooner but then again, to be fair at the time, it still felt draconian and maybe as a nation we wouldn’t have accepted it so readily.
It will surely, though, be this failure to protect care home residents that will be remembered when we look back on this sorry episode.
Why has not more been done to focus on protecting care home residents? Was it not obvious that these homes were going to be the places where this disease that mostly affects older people and those with underlying health conditions would wreak the most havoc?
Should not the 410,000 care home residents living in close proximity to each other in the country’s 11,000 homes have been the Government’s number one priority?
Our fixation with the NHS
Part of the problem, I believe, is our national fixation with the institution of the NHS. The mantra ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ says it all. It seems to me that the Government’s number one preoccupation has always been about managing the numbers of people going to hospital.
This, it appears, has been a partial success – there remain enough ICU beds – but at what cost? To achieve it nearly all the focus has gone to the NHS diverting attention and resources away from the care sector.
The other part of the problem is the lack of value placed on older people’s lives. If, or sadly is it when, these care home residents become ill it’s unlikely they’ll ever make it into hospital. Instead they’ll be left to die on their own without their loved ones in the saddest of circumstances.
Still today my friend and family member go to work with no masks, gloves or gowns and neither have been tested for the virus. I saw in this morning’s news that testing of care workers is now going to start – too little, far too late.
For weeks before the lockdown these homes were full of care workers, relatives, drivers, cooks and cleaners making it near inevitable that the virus would take hold but nothing was done.
I’ve spent much of the last few years despairing of this country’s ham-fisted efforts to organise Brexit. Now we’re making an utter shambles of managing a far bigger crisis which is both profoundly depressing and a national tragedy.