Top civil servant overseeing care homes in England steps aside – The Guardian

Last Updated on July 17, 2020 by

The top civil servant with responsibility for care homes in England has stepped aside, the Guardian has learned, sparking fresh concern about an absence of government leadership in a sector that has recorded 21,600 deaths from Covid-19 – almost 40% of all UK fatalities from the virus.

Rosamond Roughton, the director general for adult social care at the Department for Health and Social Care, “is now on a career break”, according to Whitehall sources, and a search has been launched across government to cover her role. No explanation for her move has been given. Roughton has been contacted for comment.

The former NHS official was the key contact for care home leaders during the crisis and was tasked with beefing up the department’s response to the pandemic. She was promoted to the role during the spring. She oversaw the roll-out of testing for staff and residents in care homes, which was criticised in the sector for being too slow and not regular enough to best control infection.

“To have her leave creates a void at a critical time,” said Nadra Ahmed, the executive chairman of the National Care Association. “It is crucial we have strong leadership at the top of government on social care, especially as we face the prospect of a second wave of infection. There is no time to waste in finding a replacement.”

Ahmed said Roughton had been under considerable pressure and was known to have been responding to crises on issues such as the supply of personal protective equipment to care homes, working late into the night. Officials said Roughton intended to return to the role, which she stepped away from earlier this week, and that she had not been moved aside.

“The government’s intensive work to support the adult social care sector will continue while the post is filled,” a source said.

25 February 2020

Public Health England issues guidance stating that it was “very unlikely” care homes would become infected. The guidance was not withdrawn until 12 March.

31 March 2020

Despite a lack of official statistics about fatalities, care homes warn that they are at “breaking point” and MHA, the country’s biggest charitable provider, says it has suspected cases in more than half of its facilities.

2 April 2020

The Department of Health and Social are guidelines on discharging hospital patients into care homes states: “Negative tests are not required prior to transfers/admissions into the care home.”

14 April 2020

Chief medical adviser Chris Whitty says that more than one in ten care homes (13.5%) now has at least one case of Covid-19. Whitty says: “Care homes are one of the areas where there are large numbers of vulnerable people and that is an area of risk and therefore we would very much like to have much more extensive testing.”

15 April 2020

Testing is expanded into care homes but only for people with symptoms.

21 April 2020

Five of the largest care home providers say they have now recorded a total of at least 1,052 deaths

28 April 2020

Care home deaths are included alongside deaths in hospitals after a sharp rise of more than 4,300 deaths over a fortnight in England and Wales. Testing is extended to staff and residents without symptoms.

3 May 2020

Launch of a national delivery system for personal protective equipment to care homes is hit by a delay of up to three weeks

13 May 2020

Academics report that more than 22,000 care home residents in England and Wales may have died as a direct or indirect result of Covid-19 – more than double the number stated in official figures.

18 May 2020

An unpublished government study which used genome tracking to investigate outbreaks revealed that temporary care workers transmitted Covid-19 between care homes as cases surged. In evidence raising further questions about ministers’ claims to have “thrown a protective ring around care homes”, it emerged that agency workers – often employed on zero-hours contracts – unwittingly spread the infection as the pandemic grew, according to the study by Public Health England.

6 July 2020

Care leaders, unions and MPs round on prime minister Boris Johnson after he accuses care homes of failing to follow proper procedures amid the coronavirus crisis, saying the prime minister appeared to be shifting the blame for the high death toll.

The news comes at the end of a week in which the care sector responded with fury to a decision by ministers to in effect limit their ability to recruit staff from the EU, despite there being about 120,000 vacancies before the coronavirus pandemic.

Care homes remain concerned that a second wave of Covid-19 could hit them hard, with many claiming to be financially vulnerable.

Roughton was previously the director of NHS commissioning at NHS England and before that worked for the NHS in Yorkshire and Manchester, and as a a senior civil servant at the Department of Health and HM Treasury.

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