IT would be hard to overstate how terrifying it must have been to work in a care home over the past three months.

Even if you did not care about your own health, there is no shadow of a doubt that the residents of care homes are at enormous risk from this virus, probably the most at-risk group in the country.

Even if Oxfordshire County Council denies that it pressured homes into taking people who might have the coronavirus, that sadly doesn’t change the fact that staff felt they were under pressure.

The Healthwatch Oxfordshire survey of care homes that we report on today on page 3 is an absolutely excellent piece of work, and demonstrates exactly why this organisation exists and why we are so lucky to have it in our county.

However the substance of their report leaves little to celebrate.

The results of their investigation starkly back up the conclusion that many others have already made during the pandemic, that care homes have been the single worst-hit sector in the country.

As one home manager bleakly but succinctly put it, ‘the care home sector are viewed as bottom of the pile’.

The biggest sceptics might retort that one sector has to be at the bottom of the pile, so why not care homes?

And, of course, if we were being extremely blunt about it, care homes are sometimes places where people go to die.

But for thousands more they are places to go to live: when they are run properly, care homes are places full of life, love and laughter, where residents and staff make new friends and can spend years being happy and contented.

If care homes had to be 'at the bottom of the pile', then, quite simply, the bottom of the pile is too low: we as a society need to massively and quickly raise our standards for what is an acceptable to be at the 'bottom of the pile'.

God knows this sector already has enough hardworking heroes to make it happen if only they are given the power and resources to do so.