UK COVID policy in care homes ruled “unlawful”

COVID policy in care homes, untested patients
© Srisakorn Wonglakorn

The UK High Court ruled yesterday (28 April) that COVID policy in care homes was “unlawful” – releasing atleast 43,398 untested patients into care homes

During the pandemic, older people in the UK faced increased likelihoods of hospitalisation and death via the virus. Care homes were extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, with healthcare workers even staying at their places of work to preserve the bubble of safety.

The UK approach to COVID policy has been described as “not the best in the world” by one report, while other countries highlight that the world’s fifth biggest economy took a disproportionately high death toll.

PHE said 43,398 COVID-positive people released to care homes

In 2021, former Special Advisor Dominic Cummings gave evidence to a select committee that was investigating the UK approach to COVID.

At the time, Public Health England revealed that 43,398 COVID-positive people were sent into care homes, in the first ten months of 2020. This formed a key issue as part of the investigation, but ultimately, only recommendations could be made for how to handle a public health crisis in the future.

The High Court ruled that the UK Government policy of sending untested patients into care homes was “unlawful” – after a case brought by Dr Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris, whose fathers died after testing positive for the virus. Their fathers, Michael Gibson and Donald Harris, died in care homes.

The women behind the case said family were “let down by the government”

The two women brought the case against Public Health England, and former health secretary, Matt Hancock.

Dr Gardner said: “My father and other residents of care homes were neglected and let down by the government.

“The High Court has now vindicated that belief, and our campaign to expose the truth.”

The ruling found that UK policies in March and early April 2020 were “unlawful” as they did not consider the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents, from non-symptomatic transmission of the virus.

Defence lawyer said UK Government worked “tirelessly”

Sir James Eadie QC, who represented the UK Government, pushed for the claims to be dismissed. He said: “As the evidence demonstrates, the defendants worked (and continue to work) tirelessly to seek to protect the public from the threat to life and health posed by the most serious pandemic in living memory, and specifically sought to safeguard care homes and their residents.”

Jason Coppel QC said in a written case outline for the judicial review, said: “The government’s failure to protect it, and positive steps taken by the government which introduced Covid-19 infection into care homes, represent one of the most egregious and devastating policy failures in the modern era.”

The existing COVID inquiry into the deaths of atleast 175,000 people in the UK will only begin in spring, 2023. The Labour party are calling for an inquiry much sooner.

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