Releasing hospital patients into care home environments without undergoing Covid-19 tests was not illegal according lawyers for the UK health secretary Matt Hancock, in response to a high court challenge to the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in care homes.
Earlier this month lawyers under instruction from Dr Cathy Gardner whose father died in a care home at the beginning of April filed a legal claim at the High Court and sent Health Secretary Matt Hancock a letter before action earlier this month calling for him to take back his claim that he provided a “protective ring” around care homes.
In her action, Dr Gardner contends that both the Government and the NHS were in breach of four separate articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, and says the government allowed patients to be sent back into their care homes after being in hospital with covid-19 symptoms, branding it a ‘national disgrace’.
Dr Gardner says she wants an admission that the Government failed to take proactive measures to protect vulnerable care home residents and that the guidelines allowing Covid-19 patients to be discharged into care homes was unlawful.
Speaking earlier today on television, Dr Gardner said: “It was extremely distressing, obviously I wasn’t allowed to visit him – all I could do was look through the window and see him about 24 hours before he died. It was absolutely heartbreaking.
“We’ve sent a letter to three defendants – that’s the secretary of state for health and social care, his department, NHS England and Public Health England (PHE).
“We got responses back at the end of last week and those responses are completely inadequate. They absolutely fail to address or even acknowledge any wrongdoing of any kind.
“We allege they have breached various aspects of human rights law, and also the equalities act in failing to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, those in care homes.
“There is no evidence that there was ever a ‘protective ring’ (around care homes), in fact there is very much evidence to the contrary.
“One of the things that we asked them to provide was evidence to support that statement made by Matt Hancock, but they failed to do that.
“We’re seeking an admission of wrongdoing. We’re also seeking, very importantly, steps to be put in place to protect people in the future – because this isn’t over.
“We also want statements like that ‘protective ring’ and others made by the prime minister to be retracted.
Responding to the challenge the government has denied Dr Gardner’s allegation that it breached the European convention on human rights to manage risks posed by Covid-19 to care home staff and residents, and also told Dr Gardner’s legal team, it was right to change policies as new information emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the refutation of the allegations by the Health Secretary, Public Health England and NHS England to her legal team, Dr Gardner said: “They dispute that I have legal standing to bring my claim, argue that the claim is brought too late and, most surprisingly of all assert that it is not in the public interest for my claim to be heard.”
To fund a challenge Dr Gardner has begun a crowdfunding page on CrowdJustice which has currently raised in excess of £56,000