The daughters of two care home residents who died following Covid outbreaks in their care homes are to embark on a landmark legal action against the government.
The case, brought by Dr Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris, who both lost their fathers to Covid in April and July of 2020 begins in the High Court today (October 19) and contends that officials’ failure to protect care residents during the pandemic was unlawful.
Between March and June 2020, over 20,000 vulnerable residents in care homes across England and Wales died from the virus.
The case against the Department for Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England claims that policy decisions taken at that time contributed to the death toll.
The action also contends that the government breached its duty to protect care home residents and will look at policies such as the mass discharge of elderly and disabled patients from hospitals to care homes without testing or isolation.
Dr Gardner who has a PhD in virology, said: “Matt Hancock’s ‘protective rings’ statement was a lie. The defendants have provided no evidence of measures to put a protective ring around care homes.”
The families’ lawyer, Paul Conrathe at Sinclairslaw, said: “This case will give thousands of families a sense that justice has been done if we win.”
“What happened to the residents of care homes in the pandemic was a national scandal.
“The government’s approach to protecting vulnerable care home residents during the first wave of the pandemic is one of the most devastating failures in the modern era.
“Rather than their home being a safe place, it became a breeding ground for a deadly disease that claimed the lives of over 20,000 elderly and vulnerable people, including my clients’ fathers.”
In his initial argument for the hearing, Jason Coppel QC said: ‘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.’
‘This claim is a legal challenge to the government’s failure to protect care home residents and to the key policies and decisions which led to the shocking death toll. The most notorious of these policies is that of mass discharge of around 25,000 elderly and/or disabled patients from NHS hospitals into care homes – including the homes of the Claimants’ fathers – without Covid-19 testing or ensuring that suitable isolation arrangements were in place.
‘That policy has been described by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee as “reckless and negligent” and “appalling.”’
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Every death is a tragedy and we have done everything we can to protect and prioritise care homes throughout this pandemic.
“We have provided billions of pounds to support the sector, including on infection and prevention control measures, free PPE, priority vaccinations and additional testing for staff and residents.
‘We cannot comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”