Care chiefs have rejected claims by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that it was their lack of vigilance that led to a high number of coronavirus deaths in care homes.
On a visit to Yorkshire, Mr Johnson alleged that ‘too many homes didn’t follow the procedures in the way they could have'.
About half of care homes have had virus outbreaks with 20% of residents infected and 5% of staff.
Policy manager for health and social care at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, Dr Eleanor Roy, said: ‘At best, the Prime Minister’s comments on care homes are misguided.
'Most social care settings while experienced in dealing with flu or norovirus types of infections could not reasonably be expected to deal with the demands of the coronavirus, particularly when guidance for the sector was being repeatedly withdrawn and changed.’
Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents providers, added: ‘At the start of the pandemic care homes were ignored and our personal protective equipment was directed towards hospitals.’
Chair of the Independent Care Group, Mike Padgham, said the Government realised too late that care homes were as much on the frontline as hospitals.
In April, at the height of the pandemic ,hospitals discharged elderly patients back into the care sector to free up beds without doing virus checks.
The National Audit Office recently reported that between 9 March and 17 May around 5,900 (38%) care homes across England reported an outbreak, peaking at just over 1,000 homes in the first week of April.
Between 17 March and 15 April, around 25,000 people were discharged from hospitals into care homes.
It is not known how many had COVID-19 at the point of discharge.
Health chiefs accept that they discharged patients into care homes without checks.
At a recent Public Accounts Committee hearing, Department of Health and Social Care permanent secretary, Sir Chris Wormald, said: ‘We believe we took the right decision at the right time.
'Based on information at the time the guidance was correct.
'That’s not to say we would do the same again … all our guidance was carefully considered but that’s not the same as there being no risk.
'There were considerable risks even staying in hospital.
'We had to take the balance of risk judgements where there was not a no-risk option.’