BOLTON Council bosses have hit back at claims they “blindly” followed government policy on care homes at the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Labour councillors have accused the government of failing in their duty of care after a national report revealed that some residents were discharged from hospital to care homes at the height of the pandemic without being tested.

They have asked the Tories, who run the council, why they “blindly” followed the government rather than doing things differently here in Bolton.

This comes after it was revealed that three quarters of care homes in Greater Manchester have reported a case or cluster of cases of COVID-19 so far and around a third of related deaths in the borough have happened in care homes.

But executive member for adult social care, Cllr Andy Morgan, said Bolton Council is held as an “exemplar authority” in the region with regard to care homes and the relationship it has with private sector providers.

He said: “What I and my officers have followed is the science and guidance issued by Public Health England and the Scientific Advisory Group and as an authority have done what we think has been best for Bolton care homes and the people they have been entrusted to look after.

“I, as the executive member, have absolute faith in the rest of the cabinet and our officers. We have acted in the best interest of everyone in the borough, including care homes and their residents, and this administration will continue to be open and transparent and will always welcome constructive scrutiny.”

A National Audit Office report released in June found that between March 17 and April 15, around 25,000 people were discharged from hospitals into care homes.

But due to government policy at the time, not all patients were tested for COVID-19 before discharge, with priority given to patients with symptoms.

A range of bodies across health and social care have also raised concerns about the supply of personal protective equipment in the care sector.

Responding to the report, Cllr Elaine Sherrington, Labour’s adult social care spokesman, said the government did not prepare care homes adequately.

She said: “We knew from the information from China, back in March, that the elderly and vulnerable were most at risk, yet the government did not prepare care homes for what was to come, such as supplying personal protective equipment for staff.

“The final indignity was to discharge COVID positive elderly people from hospital into care homes, thus spreading the infection.

“At the same time, the government kept the death figures from care homes out of the official statistics.

“The result is that a third of the deaths in Bolton are happening in care homes.

“We have relatives who are now afraid to send their loved ones into care homes and in some cases are taking them out.

“The government have failed in their duty of care, and the Tory council need to explain why they blindly followed the government line rather than doing things differently here.”

Cllr Morgan said the council calls all care homes in the borough twice a week to check if they have any issues, including with personal protective equipment and infection rates, so that the appropriate support can be put in place.

Council leader David Greenhalgh said he wrote to Labour leader Nick Peel to provide assurances on Bolton Council’s commitment to the care workforce.