Councillor Elisa Meschini
Councillor Elisa Meschini

On Tuesday 21st of July Labour County Councillor for King’s Hedges division Elisa Meschini moved for Cambridgeshire County Council to produce an independent report into the 127 deaths from COVID19 in care homes across the county.

The Conservative ruling group blocked this proposal, with all their councillors whipped to vote against it.

Cllr Meschini said: “I am very surprised and disappointed that the leadership of Cambridgeshire County Council have rejected the necessity to look into why we have lost so many of our care home residents to causes that may or may not be related to coronavirus. Care homes have very evidently been the poorer sister to the NHS in fighting Coronavirus. Care homes are either run privately or by the third sector. This means by nature they are fragmented and poorly prepared for a global pandemic, but steps such as testing of all patients prior to discharge could have easily been taken to enhance infection control.

“Instead, this instruction wasn’t issued until 17th March by PHE after many elderly and vulnerable patients had already been discharged, presumably under political pressure placed on trusts by the Department for Health and Social Care. This has clearly led to infection in care homes spreading. It has also led to a tiered system where the most expensive care homes have had better access to the resources and staffing to prevent infection.

“The excess death figure of 538 shows that, behind closed doors, coronavirus had a massive impact on our care homes and we need to understand exactly what happened to cause such a high excess figure. The Labour Party would like to see a nationalised social care system administered at a local level so that NHS standards would be replicated in social care. In the meantime, we need to ascertain why so many deaths occurred so that we can ensure that we are prepared should a second wave come. We cannot learn those lessons and give justice to the deceased and their families unless we correct what was quite evidently a very poor response to date.”

Reacting to the blocking of the motion, Cllr Anna Smith who is deputy leader of Cambridge City Council where 43 care home residents have died said;

“The number of deaths in care homes due to Covid-19 is nothing short of a national scandal. And with 127 of those deaths being in care homes in our region, I welcome Cllr Meschini’s motion this afternoon. It is unbelievable that the leaders of the county council have refused to support her calls for an independent enquiry. The families of those who have died deserve answers, and I know that all local Labour councillors will continue to do everything we can to make sure they get them.”

There was also criticism from Trades Unions who believe it essential that investigation and inquiry are key to protecting workers in case of a second wave of the virus.  Co-chair for the Cambridge and District Trades Council, Peter Monaghan said;

“By voting down an investigation and report into care home deaths linked to COVID-19 the Cambridgeshire Tories are directly attacking those elderly service users and the carers who have suffered so much. We can only assume they seek to protect the incompetence of their own government in neglecting social care and those carers who go beyond the call of duty to care. It shows what Tory privatisation and cuts do to the weakest in our society during a global health emergency. Social care must be brought back into state hands and their workers properly valued through a living wage for all carers, an end to profiting off our most vulnerable.

“It also shows how austerity has hollowed out public health boards and councils abilities to deal with a health crisis. Other countries that are fighting it more effectively have those systems in place. Social care and health crisis planning must now be rebuilt to ensure we can more effectively tackle such an outbreak in the winter and into the future.”

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