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Medical Negligence

Discharging patients without Covid-19 tests to care homes ‘unlawful’

A High Court ruling has deemed that government policies on discharging untested patients from hospitals to care homes during the start of the pandemic were ‘unlawful’.

Portrait of senior man sitting with his daughter and grandson on sofa - Indoors

Discharging patients from hospitals to care homes without Covid testing has been ruled ‘unlawful’

A High Court ruling has deemed that government policies on discharging untested patients from hospitals to care homes during the start of the pandemic were ‘unlawful’. The government’s decision to discharge patients to care homes has caused ‘a shocking death toll’ as countless people have suffered as a result and although the ruling will provide closure and reignite hope for justice for thousands of families, it is not enough to rectify the wrongdoings that have taken place.

What happened in care homes at the beginning of the pandemic?

Back in early 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic, patients were discharged directly from hospitals into care homes across the country without the need for testing or any guidance on quarantining or without provision of adequate PPE. This was despite the known risks around the transmission of the virus, and testing in these circumstances did not become a requirement until mid-April, weeks later. This particular group of elderly and disabled individuals were known to be among the most vulnerable, making the situation all the more improper and distressing for those discharged and their loved ones.

What has changed now that the High Court has ruled this policy unlawful?    

The court hearing, brought by Fay Harris and Dr Cathy Gardner, whose father sadly passed away while a resident in a care home, challenged Public Health England and the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock, stating that there had been failures in protecting residents. They partially succeeded in their claims with a series of policies set out at the time ruled as ‘unlawful’.

It was heard at court that more than 20,000 elderly or disabled care home residents died from Covid between March and June 2020 across England and Wales – a staggering number of lives lost in a short amount of time. This was despite Matt Hancock’s promise that he would ‘ring fence’ those most vulnerable.

This ruling is the first step towards closure for thousands of families, but ultimately this should not have happened to begin with. It is important that those who are responsible are held accountable and that grieving families are given the access to justice that they deserve.

Those living in care homes are often vulnerable and it leads people to ask why more was not done to protect them at that time. This judgment is incredibly important for all of those who feel that they have been let down by policy makers and care homes. From speaking to those affected, we understand just how traumatic the last few years have been – it’s important to us to help those families move on in their lives as best they can.

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