Bereaved doctor to fight UK government over ‘death trap’ care homes

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a public inquiry into the pandemic would take place in 2022

Dr Cathy Gardner with her late father Michael Gibson, who died in care. Courtesy Cathy Gardner
Dr Cathy Gardner with her late father Michael Gibson, who died in care. Courtesy Cathy Gardner

A doctor whose father died after contracting Covid-19 is taking the UK government to court over their "death trap" care homes.

Dr Cathy Gardner claimed the government failed to protect care home residents during the pandemic.

Her case will be brought to London's High Court later this year, she told The National, after a Covid-related delay.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a public inquiry into the pandemic would start next year.

However, his announcement came after the government attempted to have Dr Gardner's legal action dismissed.

Lawyers acting for NHS England told the court the public interest would not be served by "diverting NHS England’s attention and resources from the management of the ongoing response to the Covid-19 crisis to expensive and time-consuming high court litigation".

But the court ruled in favour of the case being heard in the autumn.

“Mr Justice Linden has granted the case permission to proceed to a full trial,” Dr Gardner said.

“Despite the best efforts of the government and NHS to get the case thrown out, the judge ruled that we had an arguable case with reasonable prospects of success.

"The judge recognised the wider public interest in the case and that it affects the lives of many people who have lost loved ones in the pandemic.

"Simply put, he accepted that it is arguable that the government unlawfully failed to protect the lives of care home residents.”

Thousands of people donated money through a crowdfunding page to help her to pay legal costs.

More than 42,000 people died in care homes from Covid, Office of National Statistics figures show, thought to account for almost a quarter of care home deaths in England and Wales during the pandemic.

An investigation by The National revealed that more than 40,600 people admitted to hospital in England during the pandemic are believed to have contracted Covid-19 while there, at least 8,000 of whom died from the virus.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is now chairman of the UK's Health and Social Care Select Committee, called the scandal the “biggest undiscussed problem” of the pandemic and believes England’s first wave could have been shortened had different guidance been followed.

Dr Gardner's father Michael Gibson, 88, who had advanced Alzheimer’s disease, died last April at the Cherwood House Care Centre in Oxfordshire, England.

His death came amid a government policy of releasing hospital patients back into care homes without determining their Covid-19 status.

Mr Gibson's death certificate stated "Covid probable".

"I am extremely angry that an ill-thought-out policy has caused me, and thousands of others, so much anguish," she said.

"I knew that losing my father would be tough, but losing him in these circumstances is truly devastating.

"These people, like my father, were the most vulnerable in our society. I believe that many of these deaths could have been avoided if the government had acted to protect these people."

Dr Gardner accused the government of transforming care homes into "death traps" in which care workers were "exposed to unacceptable and avoidable risks".

"I will continue to fight for justice for my father and the thousands like him who died unnecessarily in care homes in the course of this pandemic," she said.

The government denies breaching the European Convention on Human Rights in managing risks posed by the virus to care home staff and residents.

Updated: May 13, 2021 05:56 PM

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