Ruling Says Untested Patients Sent To Care Homes Was 'Unlawful'
The Continuing UK Social Care Crisis
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Ruling Says Untested Patients Sent To Care Homes During Covid Was 'Unlawful'

Rachael Grealish April 27, 2022

A High Court ruling has decided the government policies on discharging untested patients from hospital to care homes in England at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was ‘unlawful’.

At the beginning of the pandemic the then Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said they’d placed a ‘protective ring’ around care home patients. However, today a judge has said the government broke the law when they sent hospital patients who had not been tested back to care homes.

‘Let down by the government’

This ruling came after a case was brought by Dr Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris whose fathers, Michael Gibson and Donald Harris, died after testing positive for coronavirus, against Hancock.

Dr Gardner, whose father died in April 202 at the age of 88 in a care home in Bicester, Oxfordshire, said in a statement after the ruling she felt care home residents ‘tragically died’ and were let down by the government’.

According to Sky News she said: ‘My father, along with tens of thousands of other elderly and vulnerable people, tragically died in care homes in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘I believed all along that my father and other residents of care homes were neglected and let down by the government.’

‘Unlawful’ documents

In their ruling today, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham concluded that policies contained in documents released in March and early April 2020 were unlawful because they failed to take into account the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission of the virus.

The judges said despite there being ‘growing awareness’ of the risk of asymptomatic transmission throughout March 2020, there was no evidence that then Health Secretary Hancock addressed the issue of the risk to care home residents of such transmission.

In their ruling the judges said: “This was not a binary question – a choice between on the one hand doing nothing at all, and on the other hand requiring all newly admitted residents to be quarantined. The document could, for example, have said that where an asymptomatic patient, other than one who has tested negative, is admitted to a care home, he or she should, so far as practicable, be kept apart from other residents for up to 14 days.

‘Since there is no evidence that this question was considered by the secretary of state, or that he was asked to consider it, it is not an example of a political judgment on a finely balanced issue. Nor is it a point on which any of the expert committees had advised that no guidance was required.

‘Those drafting the March Discharge Policy and the April Admissions Guidance simply failed to take into account the highly relevant consideration of the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from asymptomatic transmission.’

Hancock Responds

A spokesman for Mr Hancock told the BBC the case ‘comprehensively clears ministers of any wrongdoing and finds Mr Hancock acted reasonably on all counts’.

She said: ‘The court also found that Public Health England failed to tell ministers what they knew about asymptomatic transmission. Mr Hancock has frequently stated how he wished this had been brought to his attention earlier.’

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Rachael is the Senior Content Editor at Freshered. She is NCTJ qualified with an MA in journalism. Rachael has almost ten years experience as a journalist in regional, national and international press and is passionate about creating engaging content.