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Hancock admits “protective ring” failings to Covid inquiry

Former health secretary Matt Hancock has admitted that the government did not manage to throw “a protective ring” around care homes.

In yesterday’s (November 30) Covid inquiry module on core UK decision making and political governance, Hancock admitted that the government had not managed to create an impermeable barrier around social care. However, he defended government policy by saying that it had acted.

Among the actions it took were to invest around £3.6 billion into the care sector, supply free PPE and other infection prevention and control measures, and offer guidance.

During the six-hour session, Hancock told the inquiry that discharge policy that did not require testing was based on a combination of lack of reliable clinical information on testing reliability as well as a lack of tests. Defending the policy he said: “Policy takes time and is, sometimes, uneven in the way it is promulgated, especially when done at pace.”

Hancock was also quizzed on the moving of personnel between care homes. He told the inquiry that the balance he sought was to ensure adequate infection prevention and control in care homes as well as adequate staffing. Frustrations between clinical and governmental staff arose “when scientific considerations conflicted with operational constraints,” he said.

He also admitted that government care home policy at the beginning of the pandemic were anachronistic and overdue for reform.

Future Covid inquiry modules will look at hospital discharge into care homes in more detail.

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