How many bereaved families whose loved ones caught Covid-19 in Northamptonshire county care homes could sue government after High Court ruling?

Hundreds were moved out of NGH and KGH to clear beds ahead of surge in virus victims

Thursday, 28th April 2022, 1:11 pm

Families of more than 140 people who died after catching Covid-19 in Northamptonshire care homes could sue the government after a landmark High Court case.

Judges on Wednesday (April 29) ruled the government acted unlawfully by failing to isolate patients discharged from hospitals to care homes at the start of the pandemic.

Official figures from the Office of National Statistics and Care Quality Commission show 147 care home deaths in Northamptonshire were linked to Covid-19 between April 10 and June 30, 2020.

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Hundreds of elderly hospital patients were discharged into Northamptonshire care homes during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic

But the true figure is likely to be much higher since the government delayed recording Covid deaths away from hospitals as the first wave of coronavirus began to take hold.

The first coronavirus case in Northamptonshire was confirmed on March 3, 2020 while the first Covid-19 deaths occurred on March 16, 2020.

Lawyers say both family members and care providers — whose staff battled to keep the virus from spreading — could now seek compensation.

Hundreds of patients were moved out of Northampton General Hospital and Kettering General Hospital in March and April 2020 to clear NHS beds ahead of a surge in virus victims needing to be admitted.

But ministers did not take into account the threat to elderly and vulnerable people from those with no symptoms spreading the virus.

The court said it was “irrational” for the Department of Health and Social Care to wait until mid-April 2020 to advise care homes to isolate asymptomatic patients for 14 days.

Wednesday's ruling is at odds with claims by former health secretary Matt Hancock that the DHSC threw a “protective ring” around the care sector.

Officials figures say Northamptonshire has seen 1,947 Covid deaths since March 2020, including around 330 in care settings.

When asked about compensation claims, a Downing Street spokesman has been reported as saying: “I’m not going to get into speculating on what further action people may or may not take.

“The Department of Health is considering the judgment carefully. The court recognised the difficult and unique circumstances the government faced in the early part of the pandemic.

“The Prime Minister talked about the lack of evidence on asymptomatic transmission at the time, or certainly the uncertainty around it during that period, balanced against the need to act quickly.”

But Charlie Williams, spokesperson for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, accused the government of misleading the public about protecting care home residents.

He said: “For the thousands of families like mine who lost loved ones in care homes, the last two years of cover ups and denials have been unbelievably painful.

“We've always known that our loved ones were thrown to the wolves by the government, and the claims made by Matt Hancock that a 'protective ring' was made around care homes was sickening.

“It's now clear the decisions taken led to people dying who may otherwise still be with their loved ones today.

“We now need to see those responsible for those dark days held accountable and lessons learned to save lives, ensuring the grim scenes of spring 2020 are never repeated again.”