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Experts who warned over Covid risk to care homes were told they were ‘too risk averse’

Ministers and public health officials were warned that stricter proposals were needed to protect care home patients from Covid-19, Wednesday’s high court ruling revealed.

Draft versions of guidance for hospitals and care homes during the first pandemic wave included measures that were challenged by NHS officials.

The government and Public Health England (PHE) were found to have acted unlawfully over a policy that allowed patients to be discharged from hospitals into care homes during the onset of the pandemic.

In their ruling on Wednesday, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham concluded that policies in March and early April 2020 failed to take into account the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission of the virus.

It came after two women took Public Health England, the then health secretary Matt Hancock and NHS England to court over the deaths of their fathers in care homes during the first wave of the pandemic. During the last two years more than 20,000 care home residents have died from Covid-19.

However, court documents show early draft PHE guidance advised against transferring asymptomatic patients into care homes with outbreaks and against admitting Covid positive patients who had not completed their isolation period to care homes. Senior NHS leaders challenged the draft guidance, saying it would make care homes “too risk averse”.

According to documents revealed in the judgment, the then minister for social care Helen Whately raised several concerns about the discharge of Covid-positive patients into care homes.

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Source: The Independent, 28 April 2022


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