Health chiefs deny care home 'recklessness'

By Heather Jameson | 23 June 2020

Health chiefs have rejected allegations that discharging elderly NHS patients into care homes at the height of the pandemic in April was ‘reckless.’

Department of Health and Social Care permanent secretary Sir Chris Wormald told MPs on the public accounts committee: ‘We didn’t want to keep clinically fit patients in hospital where they could get the virus. The decision we took around discharge was taken on clinical advice and was rational at the time.’

MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown called the discharge decision ‘absolutely reckless’ claiming that in early April 1000  care homes already had virus outbreaks.

Sir Chris added: ‘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.’

The National Audit Office recently reported that etween 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, compared to around 35,000 over this period in 2019. It is not known how many had COVID-19 at the point of discharge.

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