A DISTRICT care home owner says it was “absolutely appalling” to have allowed hospital patients in England to be discharged to care homes without being tested at the start of the pandemic.

David Crabtree – who owns Crabtree Care Homes, which includes the Raikes at Silsden – criticised the Government after a Commons report said that advising hospitals to discharge thousands of patients into care homes without knowing if they had coronavirus was a “reckless” and “appalling” policy error.

Discharging around 25,000 patients to free-up beds was an example of the Government’s “slow, inconsistent and at times negligent” approach to social care, the cross-party Public Accounts Committee said.

It added that it was “concerned” that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had continued with the policy “even once it was clear there was an emerging problem”.

Hospitals in England were asked on March 17 to discharge patients, but patients did not require a coronavirus test prior to discharge until April 15.

And it was the end of April when the Government said all care home residents and staff, regardless of symptoms, would be able to access tests.

This is despite Public Health England telling the committee it was aware of asymptomatic transmission as early as the end of March.

Crabtree Care Homes has residential sites across the district and reported 16 residents have died with coronavirus during the crisis.

Mr Crabtree said: “This report has validated everything we have said about the discharge of untested patients back to us. It’s absolutely appalling. We are doing everything we can but staff feel we are the neglected service.

“Health Secretary Matt Hancock came here, I shook his hand.

“We are testing weekly, doing the best we can. It’s inevitable a second spike will come.

“We have not moved from our position with personal protective equipment, washing hands and restricting visitors.

“There should not be second-class care for the elderly.”

A DHSC spokesman said: “Throughout this unprecedented pandemic we have been working closely with the sector and public health experts to put in place guidance and support for adult social care.

“Alongside an extra £1.3 billion to support the hospital discharge process, we have provided 172 million PPE items to the social care sector and are testing all residents and staff, including repeat testing for staff and residents in care homes for over-65s or those with dementia.

“We know there is a need for a long-term solution for social care and will bring forward a plan that puts it on a sustainable footing to ensure the reforms last long into the future.”