Boris Johnson rejects Scottish request for apology over care homes claim

Downing Street has declined to apologise after Boris Johnson provoked anger when he suggested “too many” care homes did not properly follow procedures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Peter Byrne - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Peter Byrne - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Prime Minister’s comments were branded a “real slap in the face” for care workers by the Independent Care Group, while another sector leader said they were “clumsy and cowardly”.

Donald Macaskill, the head of industry body Scottish Care, joined calls for Mr Johnson to apologise to the care home sector and its workforce.

Speaking during a visit to Yorkshire on Monday, Mr Johnson said: “One of the things the crisis has shown is we need to think about how we organise our social care package better and how we make sure we look after people better who are in social care.

“We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lessons the whole time.”

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After the Business Secretary went on the BBC’s Today programme to defend the Prime Minister’s comments, Mr Macaskill accused him of “perpetuating the myth again that we did not know about asymptomatic spread” of coronavirus when the decision to discharge patients from hospitals into care homes was made.

Asked what the Prime Minister meant by his remarks, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman told journalists: “Throughout the pandemic, care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.

“The Prime Minister was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.”

Pressed on whether Mr Johnson would offer an apology for his comments, the spokesman repeated his original answer.

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Sector leaders said the suggestion that care home workers had not been following procedures was “totally inappropriate” and “hugely insulting”.

Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, told the BBC: “Care homes across the country were dealing with an extraordinary amount of different guidance that was coming out from government on an almost daily basis.

“So for the suggestion that they were not following procedures as laid out is totally inappropriate and, frankly, hugely insulting.”

The Independent Care Group’s chairman Mike Padgham said it was “upsetting” for the Prime Minister to make such comments, and described them as “a real slap in the face for those workers after they have given and sacrificed so much”.

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Mark Adams, chief executive of the charity Community Integrated Care, said he was “unbelievably disappointed” to hear the Prime Minister blaming care workers.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think this - at best - was clumsy and cowardly, but, to be honest with you, if this is genuinely his view, I think we’re almost entering a Kafkaesque alternative reality where the government set the rules, we follow them, they don’t like the results and they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that were trying to do their best. It is hugely frustrating.”

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