Portsmouth politicians said ‘lessons must be learnt’ after a damning report released today (October 12) showed thousands lost their lives due to serious errors and delays at the start of the pandemic.
The report found that it was a ‘serious early error’ not to lockdown sooner, the decision to abandon testing for Covid in the community early ‘cost many lives’, and the failure to prioritise social care and discharge people from hospitals into care homes ‘led to many thousands of deaths’.
One Gosport care home owner, said there was no real support for homes at the time.
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Andrew Hudson, who runs the Alverstoke House Nursing Home, said: ‘It was a nightmare time.
‘We had three residents who we think caught it when they went out to appointments. Two went into hospital and contracted it and at that stage hospitals were sending them back. I’m pretty sure we knew they were positive but they had to come back to us.
‘Luckily our infection control measures were quite good so no other residents caught it.
‘But we did have a problem where 12 staff members had to isolate at one point. I was calling up our safeguarding lead saying we didn’t have enough staff and they told me to use my contingency plan - I was calling because I’d come to the end of the contingency plan.
‘We couldn’t use agency staff because we were told they could bring in the virus from other places.
‘I closed the home to families before the government told us to. I thought, “I’m not going to wait until the government tells us to.” I had to make a decision based on the risks.’
The News reported last year how 25 patients were discharged from Queen Alexandra Hospital into surrounding homes with positive tests - and 206 were placed in the community with no records held at QA of testing.
Steve Bonner, from the Pompey Pensioners Association, said: ‘At the time we were criticising the government for the fact people were coming out of hospital and being sent into care homes with Covid.
‘And when the PPE wasn’t suitable to use in hospitals it was given to the care home staff to wear. That all affected the death toll quite significantly.
‘I don’t think enough care was given to what was happening. Certainly care homes weren’t given the priority that the NHS was. It’s a disjoint between the NHS and adult social care.
‘Older people wouldn’t be bed blocking if social care was given the priority and funding it needed.’
According to the latest figures, as of October 10 a total of 380 people from Portsmouth have died with Covid-19, 253 in Havant, 276 in Fareham, 160 in Gosport and 180 in East Hampshire.
Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said: ‘Ministers were repeatedly warned that their dither and delay would cost lives and this report is a damning indictment that it tragically, did.
‘It underlines a string of monumental errors and government complacency, including a failure to set up an effective test and trace system that left many vulnerable people in Portsmouth care homes exposed to the virus.
‘For a while now I have been calling on the government to provide our local public services with the support they need, but the government’s failure to step up when they needed it most cost lives.
‘There must be a public inquiry now so that lessons can be learnt, those responsible for these failures can be held to account and families from across our city can be given the answers they deserve.’
Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North, added: ‘My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones. I hope that the official inquiry will look at these issues in detail and they take all the evidence available. It is not just important that bereaved families find out actually what happened, but also so others can learn lessons from it.’
The findings came from a 151-page report from the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, which contain MPs from all parties.
It also said the vaccination programme was a success, describing the research, development and rollout as ‘one of the most effective initiatives in UK history.’
But MPs concluded it was ‘astonishing’ it took so long for Sage to say a full lockdown was needed and for the government to implement one, adding they thought the evidence showed a lockdown was ‘inevitable.’