Concerns raised over whether older people’s rights were upheld in Wales during pandemic

Concerns have been raised over whether the Welsh Government and public bodies in Wales met their responsibilities to uphold the rights of older people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Helena Herklots, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, and Ruth Coombs, head of Wales at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said they were working together to consider the issue.

In a joint statement, they said they shared “significant concerns” about the experiences of older people during the Covid-19 crisis, in particular those living in care homes.

Other concerns include “examples of inappropriate blanket healthcare decisions” such as “do not attempt resuscitation” notices, and “the slow response” to make testing widely available to care home residents and staff.

The “apparent discharge” of Covid-19 positive older people from hospitals into care homes is also an issue, they said.

“We are considering how we can best use our powers to scrutinise the decisions and actions that have been taken during this pandemic,” Ms Herklots (pictured) and Ms Coombs said in the statement.

“We are calling for the Welsh Government’s recently announced action plan for care homes to set out the measures it will take, working with others, to support those living and working in care homes and ensure that the rights of older people are protected and promoted.

“The rights of older people must be at the heart of action and decisions about what happens in our care homes, our wider social care system and our communities as we move forward.

“We hope that our scrutiny will be welcome, and that we are able to work constructively with Welsh Government and others to help ensure that the human rights of older people are protected, both now and in the future.”

Health minister Vaughan Gething told a press conference in Cardiff that the Welsh Government would be “properly cooperative and constructive” about any inquiries Ms Herklots and Ms Coombs made.

He said there had been regular contact between Ms Herklots and officials such as his deputy minister, the chief nurse and the chief medical officer for Wales.

“We’ve always been open about some of the challenges that the Older People’s Commissioner has raised, it’s part of her role to do so, and about the scientific basis for choices we’ve made at various points during the pandemic,” Mr Gething said.

He said work was ongoing to rule in or out whether people being discharged from hospital in the early stages of the pandemic had caused harm, or not.

“The evidence picture isn’t complete but as and when we have information, as we have done throughout the pandemic, we’ll make sure that it’s publicly available and published,” Mr Gething said.

He told the press conference that any such information would be made available to the public and Ms Herklots.

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