Dr MARTIN SCURR: Why the care home watchdog should be taken to task

While many mysteries remain about the coronavirus, one thing we know for sure is that older people are at greater risk of serious complications, or even death, should they be infected.

And where do we have a high proportion of older people? Why, in care homes, of course.

So you would think, would you not, that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) — the regulatory body that oversees the standard of care provided in care homes, and indeed collates the number of deaths among residents — would have been shouting from the rooftops about what is needed to protect the most vulnerable sector of our society.

You might think it would be calling for testing of staff and residents, as well as asking for suitable equipment for workers.

While many mysteries remain about the coronavirus, one thing we know for sure is that older people are at greater risk of serious complications, or even death, should they be infected

But, actually, the silence from the CQC has been deafening.

Only now are care-home staff finally receiving the attention and support they need. And the responsibility for the long delay, which in turn has allowed the escalating death rate, must lie, at least in part, at the door of the CQC and NHS England, which appears to be weeks behind in its response to the dangers of Covid-19 within the social care sector.

We are told that UK care-home inspectors did not ask managers about the number of Covid-19 deaths until two-and-a-half weeks after the UK went into lockdown — one month after the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic.

Some claim the CQC is guilty of dragging its feet — I’ll say.

The consequence of this inaction is an escalation of deaths in care homes. Many people who are discharged from hospital following treatment are now admitted to care homes and no doubt act as vectors of the virus. Every entrant must be tested before access, there is no other argument.

When I was chairman of the Independent Doctors Federation, I was asked to report to the offices of the regulatory body that was eventually renamed the CQC. I was summoned to discuss its proposals for inspection of general practice in the private sector. This was years ago — the agency had decided to cut its teeth with us before spreading out to create chaos in NHS general practice.

We are told that UK care-home inspectors did not ask managers about the number of Covid-19 deaths until two-and-a-half weeks after the UK went into lockdown — one month after the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic

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