Government ‘unlawful’ for discharging Covid patients into care homes

The High Court has ruled that the Government broke the law by failing to protect 20,000 care home residents who died of Covid-19.

Judges said the government policy of discharging patients to care homes from hospitals during the initial Covid-19 pandemic was “unlawful”.

Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham ruled that the policies, detailed in released between March and early April 2020 were unlawful. The judges said the policies did not take into account risks to elderly and vulnerable care home residents from the virus.

The court said that, despite “growing awareness” of asymptomatic Covid transmission at the time, no proof that former health secretary Matt Hancock addressed the matter in relation to this policy.

Dr Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris, whose fathers died after contracting the virus, brought the case forward.

“This is a judicial review challenge to six specific policies made in the early stage of the pandemic,” Sir James Eadie QC told judges.

“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.”

“The lawfulness of the decisions under challenge must be assessed in the context of the unprecedented challenge faced by the Government and the NHS at that time, in particular March and April 2020.”

NHS England’s barrister, Eleanor Grey QC, said the case ought to be dismissed.

A government spokesperson told reporters: “Every death is a tragedy and we worked tirelessly to protect the public from the threat to life and health posed by the pandemic and specifically sought to safeguard care homes and their residents.

“We have provided billions of pounds to support the sector, including on infection and prevention control, free PPE and priority vaccinations – with the vast majority of eligible care staff and residents now vaccinated.”

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