People with Covid-19 were discharged to care homes over fears about the NHS getting “clogged up”, the pandemic inquiry has heard.
Professor Dame Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer during the pandemic and now head of the UK Health Security Agency, told the inquiry of how an email she sent in mid-March 2020 described the “bleak picture” and “top line awful prospect” of what needed to happen if hospitals overflowed.
Discharging people to care homes – where thousands of people died of Covid – has been one of the central controversies when it comes to how the Government handled the pandemic.
On Wednesday, the Covid inquiry was read an email exchange between Rosamond Roughton, an official at the Department of Health, and Dame Jenny on March 16 2020.
Ms Roughton asked what the approach should be around discharging symptomatic people to care homes, adding: “My working assumption was that we would have to allow discharge to happen, and have very strict infection control? Otherwise the NHS presumably gets clogged up with people who aren’t acutely ill.”
Ms Roughton added that this was a “big ethical issue” for care home providers who were “understandably very concerned” and who were “already getting questions from family members”.
In response, Dame Jenny emailed: “Whilst the prospect is perhaps what none of us would wish to plan for, I believe the reality will be that we will need to discharge Covid-19 positive patients into residential care settings for the reason you have noted.
“This will be entirely clinically appropriate because the NHS will triage those to retain in acute settings who can benefit from that sector’s care.
“The numbers of people with disease will rise sharply within a fairly short timeframe and I suspect make this fairly normal practice and more acceptable, but I do recognise that families and care homes will not welcome this in the initial phase.”
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Source: The Independent, 29 November 2023