Government Minister responds to comments by the UN Human Rights Commissioner about the operation of care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic with their assessment of reports of care home staff (1) abandoning care homes, (2) leaving residents to die alone, (3) failing to make adequate preparations, and (4) failing to provide guidance and personal protection equipment; what assessment they have made, in assessing such reports, of the human rights of patients and staff in care homes; and the assessment they have made of a report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services – respond positively, in principle, to a call for a UN convention on the rights of the elderly


Government Minister responds to comments by the UN Human Rights Commissioner about the operation of care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic with their assessment of reports of care home staff (1) abandoning care homes, (2) leaving residents to die alone, (3) failing to make adequate preparations, and (4) failing to provide guidance and personal protection equipment; what assessment they have made, in assessing such reports, of the human rights of patients and staff in care homes; and the assessment they have made of a report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services – respond positively, in principle, to a call for a UN convention on the rights of the elderly

Lord Bethell, the Department of Health and Social Care, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4466):

Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool (Independent Crossbench Peer):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the comments by the UN Human Rights Commissioner about the operation of care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic; what assessment they have made of reports of care home staff (1) abandoning care homes, (2) leaving residents to die alone, (3) failing to make adequate preparations, and (4) failing to provide guidance and personal protection equipment; what assessment they have made, in assessing such reports, of the human rights of patients and staff in care homes; and what plans they have to support the call for a UN convention on the rights of the elderly. (HL4466)

Tabled on: 14 May 2020

Answer:
Lord Bethell:

The Government is aware of comments on care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic made by the UN Special Rapporteurs and the UN Independent Expert.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is not aware of any specific reports of care home staff abandoning care homes or specific cases where residents have been left to die alone. The CQC (Registration) Regulations 2009 set out requirements for incidents and events that must be reported to the CQC, which covers deaths and serious injuries, abuse, incidents reported to the police and events that prevent a service from being carried on safely and in a way that meets legal requirements.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, each care provider was responsible for sourcing their own personal protective equipment (PPE) from wholesalers and distribution centres. While this was effective and appropriate before the outbreak, it became clear that this fragmented system would be slow to get PPE where it needed to be. To address this, the United Kingdom Government stepped in to support the supply and distribution of PPE to the care sector. We have focused on ensuring that there is an emergency supply in place, while building a longer-term solution for distribution to the sector.

We are supportive, in principle, of a multilateral instrument dedicated to the rights of older persons and welcome the work of the UN Open Ended Working Group on Ageing and its focus on substance to help deepen our understanding of the important issues, before we consider what might be the most appropriate solutions.

Lord Bethell, the Department of Health and Social Care, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4546):

Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool (Independent Crossbench Peer):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they made of the report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services Ensuring DASS and their partner decision makers have the critical and most up to date information and data on needs and capacity to plan for and make timely and rational decisions about the reprioritisation of services in response to a future flu pandemic and Identifying People who are Vulnerable in a Flu Pandemic Crisis, published in March 2018, which stated that (1) demand for personal protection equipment “could rapidly outstrip supply”, (2) advice on controlling cross infection will be required, and (3) they should “provide support with systems to collate data on suitable volunteers…as this was an area of weakness identified”, in the event of a pandemic; and what steps they took in response to that report. (HL4546)

Tabled on: 18 May 2020

The Government has made no specific assessment of the report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Service’s (ADASS) report of 2018, but the Department engages and considers views of ADASS as a key partner organisation. Since the start of the pandemic we have worked closely with the adult social care sector and public health experts to provide guidance and support, including on controlling infection.

On 2 April we published Admission and Care of Residents in a Care Home during COVID-19, which was updated on 19 June. We set out our plans to support the care sector in using and accessing personal protective equipment (PPE) in Covid-19: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Plan on 10 April. On 15 April we published our COVID-19: Our Action Plan for Adult Social Care which included strengthened advice around isolation and introduced testing for all patients prior to discharge from hospital to a care home. Copies are attached. On 15 May, the Government announced a support package for care homes backed by a £600 million Infection Control Fund for care homes to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

To support the health and social care sectors to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have launched the National Health Service Volunteer Responders programme, developed by NHS England in partnership with the Royal Voluntary Service. It is up to individual social care providers to decide whether to use volunteers. We do not collect data nationally on how many volunteers are operating in the social care sector.

Answer:
Lord Bethell:

Date and time of answer: 07 Sep 2020 at 13:48.