Government policies on discharging untested patients from hospital to care homes in England at the start of the Covid pandemic have been ruled unlawful by the High Court. BBC News has more.
The ruling came after two women took Public Health England and the Health Secretary, then Matt Hancock, to court. Dr. Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris said it had caused a “shocking death toll”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson renewed his apologies for all those who lost loved ones during the pandemic.
When Covid hit in early 2020, patients were rapidly discharged into care homes without testing, despite the risk of asymptomatic transmission, with Government documents showing there was no requirement for this until mid-April.
Dr. Gardner and Ms Harris said there had been failures in protecting residents and brought the legal challenge. They partially succeeded in claims against Public Health England and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
Speaking outside court, Dr. Gardner said she “believed all along that 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,” she said.
In their judgment, Lord Justice Bean and Mr. Justice Garnham found the decisions of the then Health Secretary to make and maintain a series of policies contained in documents issued on March 17th and 19th and April 2nd 2020 were unlawful.
They ruled this was on the grounds the drafters of those documents failed to take into account the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission, which had been highlighted by Sir Patrick Vallance in a radio interview as early as March 13th.
Sir Patrick told the Today programme that “it’s quite likely that there is some degree of asymptomatic transmission”.
A barrister representing Dr. Gardner, from Sidmouth in Devon, and Ms. Harris, from Medstead in Hampshire, told the court at a hearing in March that more than 20,000 elderly or disabled care home residents died from Covid between March and June 2020 in England and Wales.
Jason Coppel QC also said in a written case outline for the judicial review that the care home population was known to be “uniquely vulnerable” to Covid.
“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,” he added.
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