Discharging untested patients to care homes was ‘unlawful’, says high court ruling

pharmafile | April 29, 2022 | News story | Medical Communications  

The High Court has ruled that government policies on discharging untested patients from hospital to care homes in England, at the start of the pandemic, was “unlawful”. The court found that the government broke the law by failing to protect thousands of elderly and disabled residents of care homes during the months of March and April, 2020.

Matt Hancock shared earlier that it was not a mistake to release people from hospital without testing. The high court stated that the policy not to isolate those discharged from hospitals to care homes in the first weeks of the pandemic in 2020 without testing was “irrational”.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson stated that: “The thing that we didn’t know in particular was that COVID could be transmitted asymptomatically in the way that it was. That is something I wish we had known more about at the time.”

In their judgement, Lord Justice Bean, and Mr Justice Garnham, found the decisions of Matt Hancock, Health Secretary at the time, were unlawful. The decisions around a series of policies contained in documents on 17 and 19 March, and 2 April 2020, were found by the court to have “failed to take into account the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission, which had been highlighted by (among others) Sir Patrick Vallance in a radio interview as early as 13 March.”

“About 20,000 residents of care homes in England died of COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020,” the summary shares. “Two of them were Michael Gibson, father of the first Claimant Dr Cathy Gardner, and Donald Harris, father of the second Claimant, Ms Fay Harris. Mr Gibson died in a care home in Oxfordshire on 3 April 2020, Mr Harris in a care home in Hampshire on 1 May 2020.”

Dr Gardner and Ms Harris have shared that there had been a government failure to protect care home residents.

More than a quarter of all deaths among care home residents in the months of March and April 2020 involved COVID-19. This accounts for more than 12,500 people.

Ana Ovey

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