Welsh care home testing delayed because UK Government ‘did not share’ – inquiry

The UK Government not sharing information led to delays in introducing testing for care home residents in Wales during the pandemic, an inquiry has been told.

Vaughan Gething (pictured), the former health minister for Wales, has defended the 13-day delay between the English and the Welsh Governments putting in place measures for testing all care home residents during the pandemic.

Tom Poole KC, the lead counsel for the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, asked why it had taken so long to implement the policy, despite Public Health Wales having written to Mr Gething on April 17 – a day after it was put in place in England – to support the measure.

Mr Poole said: “It’s not until we get until we get to April 29 that the Welsh Government changes its policy so that all patients being discharged from hospital to a care setting would be tested regardless of showing symptoms.

“How do you account for the delay between the policy change in England and Wales?”

Mr Gething said there had not been the “sharing of information” expected between the Department of Health and Wales.

“If the same information had been shared with us, instead of being announced, then I think we could have been in a different position,” he said.

“What you then have to do is you’ve got to try and catch up with events and I certainly do wish we’d been able to move more speedily on not just changing our position, but on making sure that we had the testing ability to implement a new policy effectively.”

Mr Gething said changing the policy but not “having the means to implement it” would have been a “really significant problem”.

He was also forced to defend being photographed eating chips on a park bench during the pandemic, an event referred to as “chipgate” by Mr Poole.

The picture was published at a time when Government guidance was to stay indoors and picnics were not allowed.

Mr Gething has always maintained that his actions were entirely within the rules, telling the hearing the food was eaten during a period of exercise which was allowed.

The former health minister has previously denied the Welsh government subsequently changed the rules to allow people to eat outside because of the incident.

He told the inquiry: “The rules said you could buy takeaway food, eat that and move on.

“The challenge is that we also had in the guidance that going out for a picnic was not permissible.

“Actually, it was exercise, and the food was incidental, which was covered in the guidance.”

He said the Government changed the rules then to make it easier to understand.

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