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

By William Eichler | 27 April 2022

The High Court today ruled the Government’s policy of discharging patients from hospitals 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 said patients with coronavirus were discharged from hospitals back to care homes without testing.

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

Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham ruled the Government’s policy was ‘unlawful’ because it 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 adviser 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, claimant Cathy Gardner 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.'

General secretary of trade union Unison Christina McAnea said: ‘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.'

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.’

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