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Christian care home network: PM's comments were unhelpful, deflecting from real issue

by Tola Mbakwe

The CEO of Methodist Homes has told Premier some of the comments were unhelpful and ignored the real issue at hand which was prevalent before the coronavirus pandemic. 

Boris Johnson said on Monday that lessons are being learned, after appearing to cast some blame on care homes as they responded to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Asked what he made of chief executive of the NHS Sir Simon Stevens' wish to see plans to adequately fund the adult social care sector within a year, Mr Johnson said: "One of the things the crisis has shown is we need to think about how we organise our social care package better and how we make sure we look after people better who are in social care.

"We discovered too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we're learning lessons the whole time.

"Most important is to fund them properly… but we will also be looking at ways to make sure the care sector long term is properly organised and supported."

Sam Monoghan, CEO of Methodist Homes (MHA), told Premier some of the comments were unhelpful and ignored the real issue at hand which was prevalent before the coronavirus pandemic. 

"It really was distracting from the core of what actually needs to happen, which is an improvement in the structure, support, funding and organisation of the sector. And the comments were unhelpful and blaming. I think it was particularly harsh as it came after the day before we were out again, clapping for NHS colleagues. And I think our colleagues in the care sector had felt right at the very outset of the pandemic that they kind of were a poor relation. And then that comment yesterday was just very, very unhelpful in that respect. And it seems without real foundation."

Monaghan said care homes in the UK were not on the Government's radar up to five weeks into the pandemic. Then, when their concerns were finally been listened to, they had an "uphill battle lobbying for testing and personal protective equipment". 

MHA care homes are slowly getting back to normal by allowing socially distanced visits outside. However, the trauma of the pandemic is still lingering after the network of 90 care homes collectively lost 400 residents and three staff to coronavirus. 

"We are now emerging from that," Monaghan said. We have less than 30 cases across all our 90 homes now, which is really good. 

"And we are starting to rebuild and starting to try to make life as normal as possible. All credit to our staff, during the whole pandemic they tried to keep life as full as possible for our residents. But obviously it was hugely challenging in terms of what could be done."

Monaghan asked people to pray for residents and staff who've gone through a devastating period, and also for a reform of the care system. 

"Praying for their well-being is absolutely crucial at this time, but also then praying for justice for our older people in society that they're in a properly funded and supportive care system that works in harmony with our health system," he said. 

After the prime minister's comments, Downing Street said "care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances". The Labour Party wants the PM to take responsibility for the Government's mistakes in managing care homes.

Listen to Premier's interview with Sam Monaghan here:

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