“People will draw their own conclusions” over Labour Welsh Government “lack of transparency” on care homes testing policy – Mabon ap Gwynfor MS

Plaid Cymru has called the decision to withhold information that would allow the scrutiny of government actions during the pandemic as “appalling.”

Plaid Cymru has called for all advice to be published that informed the Welsh Government’s policies on Covid-19 testing for care home staff and residents in Wales, including those patients being discharged from hospitals into care home settings.

A total of 1,097 patients in Wales were discharged to care homes in the period between the issuing of Sage advice on the need for routine testing on 31 March 2020 and the eventual introduction of such testing by the Welsh Government.

A BBC Wales investigation in the summer of 2020 found that residents entered care homes from risky settings untested and that care homes were put under pressure to take in infected patients. The resulting care home deaths led to the Older People’s Commissioner reporting the Welsh Government to the EHRC over a suspected breach of older people’s rights to life.

Last year, the High Court ruled that the UK Government acted unlawfully by discharging untested hospital patients into care homes during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in England.

While Welsh Government introduced routine testing for people being discharged into care homes by the end of April 2020, this was later than England.

Plaid Cymru has asked for evidence that informed Welsh Government decisions around testing for patients being discharged from hospital into care homes, but this information is being withheld by Welsh Government.

Welsh Government state this is on the basis it forms part of a package of information being sent to the UK Covid inquiry, but Mabon ap Gwynfor MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, has pointed out that it may be “years” until this evidence is scrutinised via the Inquiry.

Mr ap Gwynfor said Welsh Government is “hiding vital information which should be made public” because in the event another pandemic happens before the work of the Inquiry is concluded, the public need to know that “Welsh Government won’t be doomed to repeat the same mistakes again”.  

Plaid Cymru spokesperson for health and care, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said:

“The consequences of not implementing universal testing in care homes sooner has already been laid bare in the testimonies of too many heart-broken families.

“I am appalled that the Welsh Government are refusing to release the information that would allow us to properly scrutinise their decisions. It is not good enough to claim that this is hindsight – we know that the authorities were told that all patients should be tested back in April 2020. The Labour Government’s failure to be open about this shows their complete contempt to the people of Wales, and especially the bereaved families of loved ones who lost their lives due to the Government’s failure.

“Yes, there is a UK Covid Inquiry, and yes there is a Special Purpose Committee whose remit is to look at any gaps identified in the UK Covid Inquiry. But, by definition, the Committee can never complete its work until after the Inquiry has concluded. This could be years away!  

“Should we find ourselves in this position again before that work is concluded, we need to know that Welsh Government won’t be doomed to repeat the same mistakes again. The care homes deaths were nothing short of a national scandal, the decision taken by the UK Government has already been ruled by the High Court to be unlawful, and Welsh Government are withholding the evidence they say they have for acting in the way they did. They are hiding vital information which should be made public. People will draw their own conclusions as to why this Labour government has decided not to be completely transparent.

“It’s not too late for the Welsh Government to change their minds and open themselves up to full scrutiny by holding a Welsh specific Covid inquiry – after all, health is a devolved matter, and decisions taken in Wales should be scrutinised in Wales. But at the very least, they must disclose the evidence relating to care home testing now – it is not good enough to wait for a UK Covid Inquiry which may or may not raise these questions. We have gravely serious concerns now, and we demand answers.”