Shifting the narrative

The Conservatives are working on their exit strategy. Not how we’ll exit the lockdown; how they’ll shift the blame for their failures onto others, such as the NHS. For example:

Care homes are not run by the NHS.

Care homes used to be run by councils, but years of funding cuts have seen that provision almost disappear. Today, care homes are primarily for-profit private businesses.

84% of English care home beds are owned and operated by private companies, 13% are run by voluntary organisations and 3% are run by councils. As the authors of a recent report into the sector put it:

The state has abdicated its responsibility for providing care over recent decades. The private sector may have filled this gap but it consistently puts profits before people.

…The fact that private equity-backed firms have taken over a significant share of the UK’s care provision, fuelled by debt and driven by the prospect of rising property prices and ever-lower care costs, puts our vital social care system at ever-increasing risk.

One of my best friends is a care home worker. Like many in the sector they are on a zero hours contract and paid a pittance by a private and very profitable company; they have not been given PPE because the company doesn’t want to pay for PPE. Care homes can do, or in this case not do, whatever they want. Which is why so many people are dying in them.

The government doesn’t want to be on the hook for those deaths, or for the growing death toll among front-line NHS staff. Hence the emerging narrative that it’s all the NHS’s fault. But it isn’t. The lack of PPE for front-line workers and other key equipment is the result of government decisions and indecision going back to January.

The dread hand of news management has already kicked in: the allegation is now that key workers aren’t getting PPE because the lumbering, inefficient NHS isn’t allocating resources properly, not that the resources weren’t there in the first place. There are a lot of carefully worded claims doing the rounds, so for example the government is keen to talk about the overall number of items of PPE that have been distributed rather than the details of which items have gone where and in what quantities: there’s a big difference between a gown (which is inappropriate for aerosol-generating procedures) and an FFP2 surgical mask. If there were enough PPE, everyone in the country with a 3D printer wouldn’t be making making visors for NHS staff and nurses wouldn’t be making their own PPE from bin bags.

Still, we can count on our fearless, non-partisan press ensuring they don’t get away with it. Can’t we?

Image by Liz Gerard on Twitter. It shows the Sun’s reporting of the COVID-19 death toll last week.



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