William Eichler 27 April 2022

Discharging patients into care homes was 'unlawful', High Court rules

Discharging patients into care homes was unlawful, High Court rules image
Image: Anthony M / flickr.com

The High Court today ruled that the Government’s policy of discharging patients from hospital to care homes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was unlawful.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock and Public Health England (PHE) were taken to court by two women who argued that patients with the coronavirus were discharged from hospitals back to care homes without testing.

Mr Hancock told Parliament that the Government ‘absolutely did throw a protective ring around social care’.

However, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham today ruled that the Government’s policy was ‘unlawful’ because they had ‘failed to take into account the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission’ despite warnings from the Government’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance.

An estimated 20,000 residents of care homes in England died of COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020.

In a statement outside the court, Dr Cathy Gardner, one of the claimants, said: 'My father, along with tens of thousands of other elderly and vulnerable people, tragically died in a care home 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. The High Court has now vindicated that belief and our campaign to expose the truth.

‘It is also now clear that Matt Hancock’s claim that the Government threw “a protective ring” around care homes in the first wave of the pandemic was nothing more than a despicable lie of which he ought to be ashamed and for which he ought to apologise. It’s also important that the Prime Minister accepts responsibility for what happened on his watch.’

Commenting on the High Court judgment, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘The Government promised to put a protective ring around care homes. But ministers' actions in the early days of the pandemic meant the exact opposite.

‘COVID spread like wildfire as untested but positive patients were discharged from hospitals. Thousands of elderly people died well before their time, and many care staff lost their lives too. Families have been left devastated.

‘Staff were begging for personal protective equipment and making their own when none was forthcoming. Testing was extremely poor too.

‘With no proper sick pay, staff went into work poorly as they didn't have the money to stay at home. Shockingly, two years on, the government has yet to raise statutory sick pay to a level that low-paid staff can afford to be sick.

‘Ministers should be hanging their heads in shame and allowing the public inquiry to start hearing evidence immediately so bereaved families can have the answers they deserve.’

A Government spokesperson said: 'Throughout the pandemic, our aim has been to protect the public from the threat to life and health posed by COVID-19 and we specifically sought to safeguard care home residents based on the best information at the time.

'This was a wide ranging claim and the vast majority of the judgement found in the government's favour.

'The court recognised this was a very difficult decision at the start of the pandemic, evidence on asymptomatic transmission was extremely uncertain and we had to act immediately to protect the NHS to prevent it from being overwhelmed.

'The court recognised we did all we could to increase testing capacity. We acknowledge the judge's comments on assessing the risks of asymptomatic transmission and our guidance on isolation and will respond in more detail in due course.'

Ending the ‘care cliff’ image

Ending the ‘care cliff’

Katharine Sacks-Jones, CEO of Become, explains what local authorities can do to prevent young people leaving care from experiencing the ‘care cliff'.
The new Centre for Young Lives image

The new Centre for Young Lives

Anne Longfield CBE, the chair of the Commission on Young Lives, discusses the launch of the Centre for Young Lives this month.
SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Waste Collector/Relief Driver

Ashfield District Council
£23,500 - £23,893 per annum,
Are you passionate about keeping communities clean and environmentally friendly? Sutton-In-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire
Recuriter: Ashfield District Council

Part Time Maths Tutors

Essex County Council
£24970 - £29377 per annum + pro rata
Part Time Maths TutorsPermanent, Part TimeUp to £29,377 per annum, pro rataLocation
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Housing Income Officer

Mansfield District Council
£26,421 - £31,364 per annum (pay award pending)
Looking for a role that makes a difference to people’s lives? Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
Recuriter: Mansfield District Council

Fostering Social Worker - Maternity Cover

Cumberland Council
£40,221 - £41,418 per annum
Are you an experienced and hard-working Social Worker looking to develop your career? Carlisle, Cumbria
Recuriter: Cumberland Council

Business Support to CWD SEND Inclusion CMB1025e

Cumberland Council
£26,421 - £27,334 (pro rata) per annum
We are looking to recruit an experienced, self-motivated and flexible Business Support Administrator Workington, Cumbria
Recuriter: Cumberland Council
Linkedin Banner

Partner Content

Circular highways is a necessity not an aspiration – and it’s within our grasp

Shell is helping power the journey towards a circular paving industry with Shell Bitumen LT R, a new product for roads that uses plastics destined for landfill as part of the additives to make the bitumen.

Support from Effective Energy Group for Local Authorities to Deliver £430m Sustainable Warmth Funded Energy Efficiency Projects

Effective Energy Group is now offering its support to the 40 Local Authorities who have received a share of the £430m to deliver their projects on the ground by surveying properties and installing measures.

Pay.UK – the next step in Bacs’ evolution

Dougie Belmore explains how one of the main interfaces between you and Bacs is about to change.