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We must find out why so many died in care homes in Suffolk says minister

PUBLISHED: 19:08 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 20:02 04 June 2020

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during the media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus. Picture: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during the media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus. Picture: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Ministers will want to find out why there have been stark differences in the number of cases of Covid-19 in care homes in different areas, a cabinet minister said during a Downing Street briefing.

Paul Geater took part in the Downing Street briefing. Picture: NATALIE SADLERPaul Geater took part in the Downing Street briefing. Picture: NATALIE SADLER

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was asked why there was no testing of people released from hospital into Suffolk care homes during the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis. There have been more deaths in Suffolk care homes than there have in some, larger, neighbouring counties.

Questioned by political writer Paul Geater, Mr Shapps said: “These are definitely perfectly legitimate questions, particularly on the regional variations on those, and I know that my colleagues in health elsewhere will be wanting to get to the bottom of all those questions on why there should be regional variations.”

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He said a lot of changes happened quite early on, including a £600m package to assist care homes and £3.6bn was given to local authorities – some of which was to provide social care. 
He was told that in Ipswich and Mid Suffolk about 70% of care homes had been affected by Covid-19 in recent weeks. He said that was something that needed to be looked at, but across the country most care homes had not reported any cases of Covid-19.

Across Suffolk there have been 163 deaths of people from care homes who tested positive for Covid-19, a higher figure than for both Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.
Mr Shapps said: “Of course it’s of particular interest why it is that in some areas – that have a figure of 60 to 70% as you mentioned – why those numbers have come up differently. So of course there will be questions to be looked at and reviewed.”

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The fact that the government had pushed ahead with boosting hospital capacity had helped deal with cases that had arrived from care homes.
“I notice that overall is that what’s happened, is because we’ve managed to build hospital capacity – we’ve had the Nightingale hospital and those things – we didn’t end up in this country as we saw and feared elsewhere, where beds/ventilators were running out which is a very good thing.
“That has been part of what’s helped us have a much lower level of overall death coming from care homes than in Europe for example as the average.”


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