STEPS were taken in Wales from the very start of the coronavirus crisis here to protect care homes and the care sector, the head of the NHS in Wales said today.

Older People's Commissioner for Wales Helena Herklots believes the Welsh Government should be investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over its approach to testing in care homes, and that testing was not in place in homes as quickly as it should have been.

Dr Andrew Goodall told the daily Welsh Government coronavirus press briefing that there is a need to recognise how quickly Wales had to respond to "a once-in-a-century global pandemic" and not least that the response had been based on scientific advice.

"It is important to reflect that we have tried to ensure that care homes and the care sector have always been part of our thinking," he said.

He cited a request for homes to change visiting time arrangements, and the provision of extra help and support in respect of infection control, as examples. And he added:

“Even during this week, I know homes that do not have any reported cases have been having twice-weekly calls, for example, in terms of making sure that we are able to support them.

"Any home with an outbreak has a daily mechanism in place to make sure we are able to support it.

“But a lot of the advice we have to give is really about ensuring that the normal good practice and infection control measures are in place.

“Actually, the use of a test is simply a diagnostic mechanism to ensure that the right actions are in place.

"I would really want to keep our focus on ensuring that it's those actions that we pursue, rather than the testing regime for itself.”


There have been calls for the health and social care sectors to be part of a single approach in Wales, and closer collaboration is a key part of the 'A Healthier Wales' blueprint for the future.

Alluding to this, Dr Goodall said it is clear there are "a lot of lessons we can learn" from the response to coronavirus.

Dr Goodall also focused on critical care and the numbers of patients who have required it during the coronavirus crisis in Wales.

He said 464 people have been treated for the disease in critical care units in Wales, and around 5,000 coronavirus patients have been discharged from hospital.

Fewer than 10 per cent of coronavirus patients admitted to hospital have been subsequently admitted to critical care.

The average age of critical care coronavirus admissions has been 56 years, which Dr Goodall said might be younger than most of us would have expected, and most such patients are men.

Coronavirus patients who are admitted to critical care are usually there for an average of one or two days.

But for those who require respiratory support, the timeframe is "typically 11 days", said Dr Goodall.

"I want to acknowledge the way staff have retrained for deployment into critical care," he said.

"Staff have really been at the sharp end of the pandemic and I want to thank them for their exceptional efforts."