29th April 2022
Families who lost loved ones to Covid-19 in Scotland’s care homes say they are considering legal action following a High Court ruling in England which found the UK Government’s policy on discharging untested patients into care homes was unlawful.
Legal firm PBW Law is representing many of the families in Scotland whose relatives died in care homes due to the failure of individuals, institutions and the Scottish Government. The firm says that the decision at the High Court is not binding on the Scottish courts.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in April 2021 that the policy of discharging untested hospital patients to care homes was a “mistake,” but yesterday’s High Court ruling in London was “not a judgement for Scotland.”
The First Minister was pressed yesterday during First Minister’s Questions on the issue.
Pamela Rodgers, Senior Associate at PBW Law, said: “Health is a devolved matter for the Scottish Government. The same hospital discharge policy that was followed in England was also in place here and it impacted families and residents in care homes unnecessarily and led to tragic losses. We did not surpass 70% capacity on hospitals so there was absolutely no need to mass discharge like this.
“The instruction to transfer patients from hospitals back into care homes without any risk assessment, testing or understanding of the consequences put the patients, as well as the other vulnerable persons living within the home, at serious risk. Since families were denied access or visitation, care homes should have been like fortresses, and it was unforgivable to discharge untested people into homes where the most vulnerable in society were living.”
A public inquiry into Covid-19 deaths was announced by the Scottish government in December 2020, however it is designed to cover the pandemic response in general in Scotland and is not specifically a care home inquiry.
Rodgers added: “The families of the bereaved in Scotland cannot wait for the Covid-19 inquiry because there is a time bar for raising any kind of claim which is three years from date of death. We are coming up to two years for some of those families and they absolutely cannot wait for the inquiry which may not conclude for four or five years from now. The Scottish Government needs to come forward and offer answers before then.”
In April 2020 almost 3,000 untested hospital patients and 75 known positive patients were discharged to care homes. One third of all registered deaths involving Covid-19 occurred in care homes – 3,292 deaths – according to data from the National Records of Scotland, covering the period from March to 8 April 2020.
Our own Pamela Rodgers speaks to STV News. Click here to view article.