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How Brent Council used dedicated coronavirus care home to stop residents infecting each other

Brent Council was a trailblazer when it came to throwing a protective ring around care homes during the coronavirus crisis and should be held up as an example to other local authorities, its leaders have claimed.

The Labour-held ward spent £1.5m on PPE in February and ensured elderly patients discharged from hospital were quarantined for 14 days in a separate care facility, regardless of whether they had tested positive for Covid-19, to stop them potentially infecting other residents.

While there have been more than 10,000 care home deaths related to the virus across the UK, Brent has one of the lowest figures in London.

Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, said that the council’s swift and decisive action “undoubtedly saved lives”.

Brent has previously been branded a “loony left” council for political moves including its aspirations to become the first local authority in the UK to ban fracking in 2013, and its support in the 1980s for London to become a nuclear-free zone.

But its success at tackling the pandemic has put the Government’s handling of the crisis under the spotlight, after the Health Secretary was criticised for claiming a “protective ring” had been thrown around care homes from the outset.

Mr Gardiner told Matt Hancock in the House of Commons this week: “I know the Right Honourable Gentleman will want to congratulate Brent, which actually did put in place a protective ring around its care homes, but what he must answer is: if Brent Council had the good sense and foresight to get this right, why didn’t he?”

Speaking to The Telegraph, he added: “I find it extraordinary that they did not issue any advice to councils about the quarantining of all hospital patients before they returned into care homes when their scientific advisors knew there was a risk of infecting the most vulnerable.”

Steve Reed MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said ministers should take lessons from Brent Council going forwards.

“Brent Council has shown superb leadership in this time of national crisis but they were forced to do this because things go badly wrong when the Government tries to control everything too tightly from Whitehall instead of working more closely with councils on the front line,” he said.  

“The Government must learn quickly from its example. They need to work with local authorities to avoid a deadly second spike in infections that leads to more deaths and another lockdown.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “This is an unprecedented global outbreak and the virus can sadly have a devastating effect on some of the most vulnerable people.

“Through our comprehensive adult social care action plan, we have ensured millions of items of PPE are delivered to care homes and are using our increased testing capacity to test care home residents and staff, regardless of symptoms.

“We are also providing an extra £600 million for infection control measures in care homes on top of the £3.2 billion we have already given to local authorities to deal with COVID-19 pressures. This includes £1.3 billion of additional funding to enhance the NHS discharge process.”

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