Mr Johnson sparked widespread anger on Monday during a visit to Goole, Yorkshire, when he said “too many” in the care home sector “didn’t really follow the procedures” when dealing with the novel disease.
The prime minister was responding to NHS chief executive Simon Stevens who told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the crisis had shone a “very harsh spotlight” on the care system, adding that the sector needed urgent reform within a year.
Health professionals and opposition MPs condemned the prime minister’s comments, with the National Care Forum describing the remarks as “hugely insulting” to care workers.
And now Morgan, 55, has waded into the row, accusing Johnson and other ministers of attempting to “shift the narrative” around the UK’s high coronavirus death toll.
“And then, an epidemic started in care homes and over 20,000 people in care homes died. And apparently that’s the care homes’ fault, says the prime minister.”
Morgan, who has been robust in challenging the government’s handling of the pandemic, also suggested that ministers had been attempting to blame public health bodies over the crisis.
He added: “It’s all their fault [ care homes], not the government’s fault for not applying mandatory testing to those who won’t go back, no, it was the fault of the care home who had no PPE to protect them so a large number of care home workers died in this process.
“I think it’s honestly disgusting. What we’re seeing now is the blame game.
“The prime minister and Matt Hancock and other ministers are starting to shift the narrative away from themselves and their decisions to other people like Public Health England, NHS England the care homes – everyone but the government is going to end up being blamed for this by the government.”
Ian Kessler, professor of public policy and management at King’s Business School, said: “The prime minister’s comments on care homes distract attention from the highly fragmented, largely outsourced system of social care provision, delivered by low paid and insecure workers, as highlighted in our recent report on Fair Care Work.
“The report notes how these systemic features of the social care model generated major challenges and difficulties in dealing with Covid-19 in care homes, and the value of improving the treatment of staff in the sector as a step towards addressing them.”
He added: “We need a new fair deal at work for social care workers which addresses the precarious nature of work and the often poor employment conditions found in the sector and as cruelly exposed by the Covid crisis.
“As the initial terror of this pandemic begins to subside, it feels like the right moment to start talking about how to rebuild and re-regulate our health and social care system. It is not enough to just clap for our carers, it’s time to make meaningful changes to the working practices that have seen them undervalued and dismissed for far too long”.
The government has come under criticism in recent days after newly published Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed that one in five care home residents had been infected with the novel disease once it was present at a site.
More than half of homes in England surveyed by the ONS reported at least one Covid-19 infection, and where that case occurred, at least 20 per cent of residents then tested positive for the virus, according to the figures.
Separately, the ONS said a third of all fatalities in care homes across England and Wales between March and June have been linked to coronavirus – almost 20,000 deaths.
Mark Adams, chief executive of the Community Integrated Care charity, told the BBC’s Today programme that the sector had been “crying out” for adequate testing for months and criticised Johnson’s “throwaway” remarks.
“I think what we’re getting is history re-written in front of us, when you could list pages and pages of government failure which the system has had to cope with.
“And to get a throwaway comment, almost glibly blaming the social care system and not holding your hand up for starting too late, doing the wrong things, making mistake after mistake, is just frankly unacceptable.”
When asked whether his staff were being tested enough, he said: “We didn’t test social care until the end of May. So us, like most social care operators, had our losses before we started having any testing at all.
“Yes, the testing has now reached a point where most of our people in care homes and most of the residents have been tested once but once is absolutely useless because if you get tested and then get back on the bus and pick up the virus on the bus, within a week you’re potentially asymptomatic and infectious.
“We have been crying out for weekly or ideally twice-weekly testing for months and we’ve only just got that commitment – it is a question of the horse bolting and shutting the stable door.”
Business secretary Alok Sharma claimed his boss was “certainly not blaming care homes” for social care coronavirus deaths,
“What the prime minister was pointing out is nobody knew what the correct procedures were, because we know that the extent of the asymptomatic cases was not known at the time,” he said.
“We have done our best to put our arms around the care home sector.”
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