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Now is time for reforming care sector, unions say as it is revealed 20,000 care home residents died with Covid

UNIONS representing care workers called for reform of the care sector today after it was revealed almost 20,000 residents had died with coronavirus in England and Wales in three months.

Death certificates for 19,394 residents, the majority of whom died in care homes, mentioned “novel coronavirus” between March 2 and June 12, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Public-sector union Unison said that the death toll was “yet more evidence care was left high and dry when the pandemic hit.”

Senior national officer Gavin Edwards added: “If ever there was a time for urgent and comprehensive reform of the care sector, it’s now.”

GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said the union had warned the government from the start that “they were failing to protect care home residents and workers.”

She said ministers in the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) “focused all their efforts on the NHS” and “had no plan for social care.”

Ms Harrison continued: “Elderly patients were discharged from hospital and admitted into care homes without being tested for coronavirus in order to clear beds, so that the NHS was not overwhelmed. 

“The government failed our social care members when it came to pay, when it came to personal protective equipment (PPE) and when it came to testing. 

“GMB had to lobby to government for carers to get even the most basic PPE. 

“They must take responsibility for their handling of Covid-19 and immediately address the issues of low wages and no sick pay for this predominantly low-paid, female workforce. 

“Ministers’ negligent approach to care during this crisis has meant thousands more died than should have done.” 

The DHSC announced today that staff and residents in care homes for people over 65 or with dementia will be regularly tested for coronavirus from next week.

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