Care home residents were “neglected and left to starve” during the pandemic, lawyers representing bereaved relatives have told Scotland’s Covid inquiry. The Telegraph has more.
Shelagh McCall KC said the “blanket ban” on care home visits made it impossible for families to check on the welfare of their loved ones and their phone calls “went unanswered over days and sometimes weeks”.
In a damning opening statement to the inquiry, she said some of them were treated “with disdain” when they managed to contact care home staff and their questions “fobbed off”.
She said families were told a resident was fine “only to get a sudden hurried phone call that they were dying”, with some not seeing their loved ones again following the onset of lockdown.
Other relatives reported “a significant deterioration of their loved ones’ physical and mental health” that “was nothing to do with COVID-19”, she said.
Ms. McCall said that “some suspect that their loved one was suffering from neglect, dehydration and starvation”, and medical records were found to be “missing or incomplete” for those that died.
She also predicted the inquiry would hear that residents were forced into agreeing to do not resuscitate plans, and that the evidence would “point to a systemic failure of the model of care”.
Another group representing bereaved relatives said the policy pursued by Nicola Sturgeon’s Government at the start of the pandemic, of discharging untested hospital patients into care homes, was “ultimately a death sentence for the elderly”.
In its opening statement, Scottish Covid Bereaved – a support group for families of those who died during the pandemic – questioned whether SNP ministers considered the science before making their decisions or “marched a few steps behind Boris Johnson into the deadly bedlam that he stands accused of in his handling of the pandemic”.
The evidence was heard on the second day of the Scottish Covid Inquiry, chaired by Lord Brailsford in Edinburgh, examining the response to the pandemic.
An official report found 113 Scottish hospital patients who had tested positive for coronavirus, without later testing negative, were transferred to care homes in March, April and May 2020.
A further 3,061 were sent from hospitals to care homes in the period without being tested. Jeane Freeman, Ms. Sturgeon’s Health Secretary at the time, has previously admitted that “we didn’t take the right precautions”.
Ms. McCall was representing Bereaved Relatives Group Skye, a group of bereaved relatives and care workers from Skye and five other health board areas of Scotland.
She told the inquiry that families wanted to know why Covid was allowed to enter care homes and “spread like wildfire”.
“We anticipate that the inquiry will hear that people were pressured to agree to sign do not resuscitate notices, and that people were not resuscitated even though no such notice was in place,” she said.
“That residents may have been neglected and left to starve, that families are not sure they were told the truth about their relative’s cause of death, that the usual process for the certification of death was departed from.”
Ms. McCall said the inquiry must investigate potential violations of Article 3 of the Human Rights Act prohibiting “torture, inhuman and degrading treatment”.
“Relatives will speak of their loved ones lacking food, water, and hygiene. That there was inappropriate, inadequate, absent or delayed medical attention,” she added. …
David McKie, representing Independent Care Homes Scotland (ICHS), which comprises 11 firms operating 156 homes with around 13,000 staff. He said the “burden was an extraordinary one and at times intolerable for staff to carry”.
He said ICHS members had “profound concerns across a range of the decisions made by Government”, citing a six-day delay before Scotland followed England by stopping untested hospital patients being moved into homes.
Mr. McKie also highlighted SNP ministers’ “failure to lift visiting restrictions” in summer 2020 and “attempts by the Scottish Government to shift responsibility onto the independent care sector”.
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