Human rights commission backs Sidmouth woman’s legal challenge over care home deaths

Cathy Gardner with her father, Michael Gibson. Picture: Supplied by Cathy Gardner

Cathy Gardner with her father, Michael Gibson. Picture: Supplied by Cathy Gardner - Credit: Archant

The human rights watchdog has given its backing to a Sidmouth woman’s legal action against the Health Secretary over Covid-19 deaths in care homes.

Dr Cathy Gardner said her father died of ‘probable Covid-19’ in April, at an Oxfordshire care home which had been re-admitting residents after hospital discharges - in keeping with the Government guidance at the time.

She claims that the policies in place at that stage of the pandemic “failed to take into account the vulnerability of care home residents and staff to infection and death, the inadequacy of testing and PPE availability”.

The Government denies acting illegally over care homes in England.

But now the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has entered the debate, with the statement: “We are concerned about potential breaches of older people’s human rights during the pandemic. The tragic death of Dr Gardner’s father and subsequent legal challenge raises important issues of public interest and we are prepared to assist the Court should the judicial review be granted.”

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Dr Gardner is seeking a judicial review of actions by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, Public Health England and NHS England.

She has welcomed the backing of the EHRC and the findings of a report by the Public Accounts Committee, which concluded on July 29 that ‘discharging patients from hospital into social care without first testing them for Covid-19 was an appalling error’.

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In an update on her CrowdJustice fundraising page, she says:

“The Committee also said that the Government’s policy of discharging patients straight from hospital into care homes was ‘reckless and negligent’, and that the Government had continued with the policy even once it was clear that there was an emerging problem. Care homes were, the Committee’s Chair Meg Hillier MP concluded, ’thrown to the wolves’.

“I remain outraged that the Government’s dithering, incompetence and outright failure to lead has caused the premature death of my father and thousands of other vulnerable care home residents. I will continue to fight for justice for him, and for them, for as a long as I can.”

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