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Nurse speaks out as COVID-19 care home discharge policy ruled unlawful

Anita Astle says High Court ruling is welcome but won’t ‘bring back loved ones’, while government’s action leaves social care nurses feeling ‘let down, isolated and forgotten’

Anita Astle says High Court ruling is welcome but won’t ‘bring back loved ones’, while government’s action leaves social care nurses feeling ‘let down, isolated and forgotten’

A ruling that said government policies on discharging hospital patients into care homes were unlawful won’t ‘bring back loved ones’, a nursing home manager has said.

This week the High Court of Justice ruled it was ‘irrational’ that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the government failed to advise asymptomatic patients to isolate from existing residents for 14 days when they were discharged back into care homes.

Anita Astle says High Court ruling is welcome but won’t ‘bring back loved ones’, while government’s action leaves social care nurses feeling ‘let down, isolated and forgotten’

High Court of Justice in London. Picture: Alamy

A ruling that said government policies on discharging hospital patients into care homes were unlawful won’t ‘bring back loved ones’, a nursing home manager has said.

This week the High Court of Justice ruled it was ‘irrational’ that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the government failed to advise asymptomatic patients to isolate from existing residents for 14 days when they were discharged back into care homes.

The ruling contradicted the government’s claim that it threw a ‘protective ring’ around the most vulnerable at the start of the pandemic.

Nurses have been let down, says care home manager

Anita Astle

Anita Astle, nurse manager and managing director of Wren Hall Nursing Home in Nottingham, told Nursing Standard: ‘We are now two years on from the pandemic first wave and still there has been no formal inquiry into what has happened, there has been no formal recognition of lessons learned from a system perspective. This, in my opinion, is totally unacceptable.’

While she welcomed the High Court’s ruling, she added: ‘I wonder what difference it will make. The ruling itself will not bring back the loved ones that were lost through the pandemic. These individuals lost their lives prematurely and we, as part of the health and care system, were totally unprepared for what we faced.

‘As social care nurses, we felt let down, isolated and even forgotten. The guidance issued by the government was wholly lacking and poorly thought out.’

Fathers’ deaths spurred claimants into legal action

The High Court ruling came after Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris took legal action against former health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, NHS England and the former Public Health England (PHE), following the death of their fathers from COVID-19.

While the judges said it was necessary to discharge patients into care homes to ease pressure on the NHS, the individuals drafting the discharge policies in March and April 2020 ‘failed to take into account the highly relevant consideration of the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from asymptomatic transmission’.

Former health and social care secretary blames advice he was given

In a written statement in The Telegraph, Mr Hancock blamed PHE for the failings, stating that the risk of asymptomatic transmission ‘was not, as the High Court judgment said, included in the advice I received from PHE as health secretary.’

London South Bank University professor Alison Leary had this to say on Twitter about Mr Hancock’s comment:

NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care have been contacted for comment.


Read the High Court ruling

Gardner & Harris v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care


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