Last reviewed 6 October 2020

Amnesty International has published a report, which found some poor decisions at national and local levels have had serious negative consequences for the health and lives of older people in care homes and "resulted in the infringement of their human rights".

More than 18,000 residents of care homes in England died with Covid-19 between 2 March and 12 June 2020. Of these deaths 13,844, or 76%, happened in care homes themselves; nearly all of the remainder occurred in a hospital. During the same period, 28,186 “excess deaths” were recorded in care homes in England, representing a 46% increase compared with the same period in previous years.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) maintained: "From the start of the pandemic we have been doing everything we can to ensure care home residents and staff are protected".

They said this included "testing all residents and staff, providing over 228 million items of PPE, ring-fencing over £1.1 billion to prevent infections in care homes and making a further £3.7 billion available to councils to address pressures caused by the pandemic, including in adult social care."

Amnesty said “a number of poor decisions at both the national and local levels had serious negative consequences for the health and lives of older people in care homes”, and a public inquiry promised by the Government should begin immediately.

They said sending thousands of older untested patients into care homes in England at the start of the coronavirus lockdown was a violation of their human rights.

Researchers received reports of residents being denied GP and hospital NHS services during the pandemic, "violating their right to health and potentially their right to life, as well as their right to non-discrimination".

Initial Government advice in March against the use of PPE if neither the care worker nor the individual receiving care and support was symptomatic, was described as "heedless at best".

Concerns were highlighted in the report concerning "do not attempt resuscitation" orders being adopted inappropriately during the pandemic.

Care homes were able to reopen for family visits in July, as long as local authorities and public health teams deemed it safe. Amnesty also stressed: "Regular testing can help break the isolation that is so damaging to people's physical and mental health and could mean the difference between families being torn apart for months again".

The report, entitled As If Expendable: The UK Government's Failure to Protect Older People in Care Homes During the Covid-19 Pandemic, is available at: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/files/2020-10/Care%20Homes%20Report.pdf?.