The Older People's Commissioner for Wales has suggested that older people’s rights may not have been protected during the COVID-19 pandemic and has called for an investigation into the Welsh Government’s handling of the crisis in care homes and other health and social care settings.
The Welsh Government announced last week (16 May) that testing would be made available for people in care homes. But According to the Commissioner, who called for testing to be made available to all care homes in Wales at the end of April, testing has come too late.
As a result, she has called upon the Equality and Human Rights Commission to examine the Welsh Government’s response.
In a statement yesterday (21st May 2020), the Commissioner, Heléna Herklots, said: “The situation we have seen in our care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic has been a tragedy, and I have concerns that older people’s rights may not have been sufficiently protected, in these settings and across health and social care more widely.
“It’s crucial that these concerns, and the concerns raised by older people, their families and care home staff throughout Wales, are investigated and I believe that the Equality and Human Rights Commission would be best placed to examine and scrutinise the action taken by the Welsh Government, as part of a wider inquiry that looks at older people’s experiences and the action that has been taken across the UK.
“The rights of older people must be at the heart of the action and decisions about what happens in our care homes and I hope that the Welsh Government would welcome external scrutiny from the EHRC, which will help to ensure that the rights of older people are protected, both now and in the future.”
According to the BBC, the Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gethin said he "didn't recognise" a breach and said the government’s policy on testing in care homes was based on scientific advice.
However, he did recognise some shortcomings in care homes.
He said: "What I do accept is that in some parts of Wales there are some examples of where some care homes were wrongly refused tests.
But the Minister suggested that he was initially advised that testing in care homes was not essential.
He said: "I don't think you can draw a direct line between those because as I say, the advice and the evidence we had at the time was that people who weren't symptomatic, there wasn't a value in testing them.”
"I don't recognise that we have violated the rights of older people.”