Disabled activists have attacked the care watchdog for supporting an “abhorrent” government policy that will again see older and disabled people who have been infected with coronavirus being discharged from hospitals into residential homes.
Early in the pandemic, hospital patients were discharged into care homes without being tested for COVID-19, which is believed to have caused the loss of thousands of lives.
Ahead of an expected surge in winter cases, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has now decided that patients in England who are set to be discharged from hospital into a care home with a positive COVID-19 test result will first have to be admitted to a “designated setting”.
They will have to be cared for there until the end of their isolation period.
Some of these designated settings will be “stand-alone units” where only service-users with coronavirus will be admitted.
But others will be care homes “with separate zoned accommodation and staffing” for service-users with coronavirus.
Other parts of those homes will be occupied by residents who have not been infected with the virus.
This means that some older and disabled service-users who are not yet infected could again be exposed to the risk of catching COVID-19.
Every local authority in England was told last week in a letter from DHSC (PDF) that it must “identify sufficient designated accommodation to meet current and future demand over winter in their local area and notify CQC of the details of these facilities as soon as possible”, and ideally by last Friday (16 October).
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has agreed to the plans and has told ministers that it has the “necessary capacity” to approve 500 designated settings by the end of November.
The DHSC letter says the government wants every local authority to have access to “at least one CQC designated accommodation” by the end of this month.
Once a setting has been approved by CQC, it would be able to “receive COVID-19 positive people discharged from hospital”, the DHSC letter says.
MDPAC said this week that the government was trying to solve the problem “on the cheap” rather than funding recovery facilities that are solely for older and disabled people with coronavirus.
Rick Burgess, from MDPAC, said the government “have had months to prepare for this”.
He said: “This last-minute thing is what they have been doing across the board. It suggests a national government running around like a panicked chicken.
“The government’s attitude appears to be underpinned by an attitude that there are lives that are not worth living and they don’t mind losing them… and that’s eugenics.”
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said the policy was “utterly unacceptable and must be stopped”.
She said that thousands of older and disabled people in care homes had “needlessly died due to the reckless mishandling of the pandemic by government, from the lack of adequate personal protective equipment, the wrongful imposition of DNRs [do not resuscitate orders], as well as the murderous discharge of infected patients into these homes.
“Now we find that this scenario is not only going to be repeated but actually supported by CQC, in spite of the fact that it is known the spread of the virus in such enclosed communities is rapid.
“This means there can be no lingering doubt that a eugenics policy targeted at care home residents is in full swing.”
Despite being asked to answer questions about the new policy on Monday, CQC had failed to do so by noon today (Thursday).
*For sources of information and support during the coronavirus crisis, visit the DNS advice and information page
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…