Constituent policy

High Court rules on Covid patient and care home policy

A COUNSELOR whose mother died with Covid has said a High Court ruling against government policy will not bring back the thousands of people who died in the first wave of the pandemic.

Senior judges yesterday ruled it illegal to send patients infected with the virus back to care homes because it ‘did not take into account the risk of transmission to elderly and vulnerable residents’.

More than 400 coronavirus-related deaths in County Durham care homes were recorded between March and June 2020, with one home losing 27 residents to the disease.

Cathleen, the 84-year-old mother of Durham County Councilor Paul Sexton, was one of 23 people who lived at Melbury Court in Durham to die during this time.

Catherine Sexton. Photo: CONTRIBUTOR

Cllr Sexton, who is the authority’s portfolio holder for adult and health services, said: ‘I am delighted with the decision, although not unexpected, given that we all knew that it was wrong to send Covid patients back to our care homes.

“The decision will not bring back the time we lost with mum or replace the helplessness and pain we felt at the time, not being able to hold her hand and comfort her in her final days.

“The decision will not bring back the thousands of people who died, in a few months, during the first wave, however, I hope it indicates that when a public inquiry begins, we will learn valuable lessons and ensure that the same mistakes are never made again.

Echo of the North: Paul Sexton Paul Sexon

Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham said that despite ‘growing awareness’ of the risk of asymptomatic transmission throughout March 2020, there is no evidence that then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock addressed the question of the risk to residents of care homes in England from such transmission.

The Echo of the North: Melbury Court in Durham Melbury Court in Durham

Durham City MP Mary Kelly Foy said: ‘The High Court’s ruling will be but a crumb of comfort to the many families who have tragically lost loved ones in care homes during the pandemic.

“However, it is vindication for many families who have long suspected that the government has not created a ‘ring of protection’ around their vulnerable loved ones, but has instead left them dangerously exposed to the virus.

“Far too many of my constituents in Durham have been personally affected by this tragedy and many questions remain unanswered.”

Echo of the North: Mary Kelly Foy, MPMary Kelly Foy, MP

Ms Foy said: ‘This is why we urgently need a public inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, a third of the 27-year-old residents of Sandringham Care Home in Bishop Auckland died from the virus.

North Durham MP Kevan Jones said: ‘It confirms that, in the government’s rush to get Covid patients out of hospital, it has failed to take the necessary steps to protect people in homes with devastating consequences, not only for residents but also for those who work in care homes. .

“The government should explain what happened and apologize to people who lost people.

“They were preventable, the government didn’t think about the consequences of placing Covid patients in communities of very vulnerable people.”

In Stanley Park, which has not accepted Covid patients returning home, the death toll for the same period still reached 18 as the virus spread rapidly across the country.

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A spokesperson for Care UK, which owns the home, said: “Care UK had a comprehensive pandemic plan in place across all of its homes more than two weeks before the country went into lockdown.

“A part of that plan was that we were not accepting any hospital residents who had tested positive or had symptoms.”

In 2020, local authorities have been asked to find alternative accommodation options for hospitalized patients with Covid-19 which can be moved to free up space for more seriously ill patients.

In June of the same year, Durham County Council denied trying to force care homes to accept patients as a condition of extra money to deal with the effects of the pandemic.

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Jane Robinson, chief executive of Durham County Council for Adult and Health Services, said: ‘We are aware of the outcome of this case and are reviewing the findings.

The claim was brought by two women Cathy Gardner, whose father Michael Gibson died in Oxfordshire, and Fay Harris, whose father Donald died in Hampshire, have partially succeeded in their claims against the Health and Public Secretary Health England.

The judges concluded: “The common law claim succeeds against the Secretary of State and Public Health England in respect of the documents of 17 March and 2 April 2020 to this extent: the policy set out in each document was irrational in failing to advise that where an asymptomatic patient, other than a patient who tested negative, has been admitted to a nursing home, they should, where possible, be separated from other residents for 14 days.

A spokesperson for County Durham and the Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We are working with our partners to review these results.

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