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Lessons must be learned from pandemic care home policy, union warns as Hancock's messages leaked

LESSONS must be learned from the government’s care home policy during the pandemic, a union leader warned today, as an investigation revealed that Matt Hancock failed to follow professional guidance.

More than 100,000 leaked WhatsApp messages revealed today that England’s chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty told then-health secretary in April 2020 there should be testing for “all going into care homes.”

The exchanges suggest Mr Hancock ultimately rejected the guidance, telling an aide the move just “muddies the waters” before introducing mandatory testing only for those coming from hospitals rather than the community.

He has denied the reports, with a spokesman saying they have been “doctored to create a false story.”

In the Commons, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urged people not to focus on “piecemeal bits of information” and that “the right way for these things to be looked at is the Covid inquiry.”

He said: “There is a proper process to these things, it is an independent inquiry, it has the resources it needs, it has the powers it needs, and what we should do in this House is to let them get on and do their job.”

But Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said that lives were needlessly lost because ministers “effectively abandoned” staff and residents.

She said: “Many care workers had to make their own safety kit from bin bags, couldn’t access testing for months and were pressured into coming in when they should have been off work with Covid.

“The government is to blame for this disaster. Staff, care home residents and their families paid an unacceptable price.

“Lessons must now be learned through the independent public inquiry.”

Keep Our NHS Public, which held a People’s Covid Inquiry last year, hit out at claims that Mr Hancock “put a protective ring around our care homes.”

Co-chairman Dr Tony O’Sullivan told the Star: “No… He fanned a firestorm of Covid transmission that killed over 40,000 residents, 25,000 people relying on domiciliary care and around 2,000 health and care front-line staff.

“Our own inquiry evidenced this deceit and the fatal consequence.

“It is one level of failure not to prepare sufficient tests and processes in time. It is a different order of public misconduct to lie — to pretend all was well and boast about world-beating targets that failed to materialise — knowing that the death rate in UK care homes was the second worst in Europe by June 2020.”

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