CARE homes in Gwent and across Wales were turned into "coronavirus warzones" due to poor government decisions on testing and PPE, according to a social care leader.

Mario Kreft, the chairman of Care Forum Wales (CFW), said a Senedd committee report on the impact of Covid-19 had exposed decisions that were "patchy at best and utterly shambolic at worst".

Coronavirus deaths in care homes to June 12 accounted for 28 per cent of all Covid-19 fatalities in Wales, the Senedd's Health, Social Care and Sport Committee found.

The committee's report, published on Wednesday, said care homes in Wales had been "badly let down" during the coronavirus crisis – an allegation the Welsh Government has rejected.


But Mr Kreft believes the committee's findings show the need for urgent reform of the social care sector in Wales.

"This report is essentially confirming what we knew already and what CFW has been saying for months – that essentially care homes, their residents and staff inadvertently became collateral damage in a drive to protect the NHS from being overrun," he said.

The CFW chairman said the committee had "flagged up" concerns over the availability of testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) in care homes.

In its report, the committee noted evidence from the GMB trade union that many of its members in the care sector were "terrified" because they "were not adequately prepared" for the outbreak.

CFW had previously complained about the reliability of supplies, with reports care homes did not know how much PPE they would receive each week.

Mr Kreft said CFW had called for a lockdown of care homes and more PPE before the Covid-19 outbreak spread to the UK – but the organisation hadn't been invited to take part in the "very early decision-making process" on the country's Covid-19 response.

On testing, Mr Kreft said a CFW survey found 42 per cent of care homes had felt pressured into admitting hospital patients who either had Covid-19 or had not been tested for the virus, turning "safe havens into coronavirus warzones".

The testing programme has since been expanded to all care home staff and residents, but Mr Kreft said CFW members said testing ranged from "patchy" to "shambolic".

The Senedd committee noted CFW's concerns over admitting untested hospital patients but said the Welsh Government had refuted those claims.

But the committee said there had been "a complete lack of clarity" over testing in Wales, causing "confusion and concern".

Testing in care homes was initially "flawed", the committee said, adding that its members were "deeply troubled" by the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Welsh care homes.

The committee also called for more support for care homes amid "mounting financial pressures", and Mr Kreft said inconsistent emergency funding during the pandemic "is the perfect illustration of why we need to take stock and create a new national plan within 12 months".

He added: “This is not a blame game. This is about setting a plan that will meet the needs of future generations by learning some important lessons from the mistakes made during the pandemic and the past generation, so that history does not repeat itself.”

Responding to the committee's report, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We don’t accept the Committee’s finding that care home residents have been badly let down. Our approach has been routed in scientific evidence with the sole objective of saving lives, regardless of where people live.

“The Senedd’s health committee has focused on testing, which is just one part of our response. We have provided a wide range of support, including extra nursing staff where necessary and free PPE for care homes across Wales.

“Everyone working in social care has worked tirelessly to protect some of the most vulnerable people in Wales. We will continue to work with the sector to identify and provide any additional support it needs to respond to the virus.”