Because of the deaths of their loved ones during the early stages of the COVID-19 epidemic, thirty families in England have decided to initiate legal action against the government, as well as care homes and many hospitals.
The families believe that not enough precautions were taken to safeguard their loved ones from the illness.
They are suing for compensation for the loss of life and the anguish that was inflicted.
The government asserts that it made it a priority to protect residents of residential care facilities by making use of the most up-to-date research.
The decisions made in March 2020 to hastily transfer hospital patients into care homes without testing or a necessity for them to isolate themselves are the primary subject of the legal claims.
The lawsuits are a direct result of a decision made by the High Court in 2022 declaring the policy to be invalid due to the fact that it failed to take into consideration the danger that asymptomatic transmission of the virus poses to elderly and fragile residents of care homes.
Nearly 20,000 care home residents in England and Wales passed away as a result of Covid-19 between the beginning of March 2020 and the beginning of June 2020. That accounts for almost one-third of all deaths that occurred in nursing homes during that time period.
During that time period, the government said that it had “worked to put a protective ring” around inhabitants of care homes.
Liz Wenger, whose mother Margaret was 95 years old when she tested positive for the virus at her care home in May of 2020 and subsequently died in the hospital, is bringing one of the lawsuits.
“What exactly was going on with the administration of those nursing homes? What kind of counsel were they receiving?” She inquires. “We have to take it up with the government. A lack of readiness existed, which in turn translated into problems at the care facility.
Margaret took an engaged interest in the events happening in the outside world and maintained a journal of her observations.
All of the families are filing claims for damages against the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, in addition to the specific nursing homes and hospitals that are involved in each particular instance.
They contend that a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights occurred, including a failure to defend their relatives’ rights to life and to protect them from discrimination.
Leigh Day’s solicitor Emma Jones, is acting as the family’s legal advocate at this time. She expressed her desire for “an inquiry into the fatalities that was complete and exhaustive,” stating that this “may allow our clients to believe that they have gotten justice for their loved ones.”
It is the diary.
Liz Wenger is under the impression that her mother’s journal, a little black book with the year 2020 engraved on the front and filled with various scraps of paper, has crucial pieces of proof.
Liz states that “she maintained journals all throughout her life.” “This one is really remarkable in its own right.”
According to Liz, even though Margaret’s physical health had deteriorated by the time she was in her nineties, “mentally she was all there still.” “And she was aware of everything that was taking on throughout the globe.”
However, there are also notes that provide a picture of what was going on in the care home more generally. Margaret’s last diary mostly chronicles the times of visits, phone calls, and the employees who came in to look after her.
Her daughter is of the opinion that it offers a chronology that demonstrates how the healthcare system was under extreme strain in the first few weeks of the epidemic.
On March 3, 2020, the government will announce its action plan for the Coronavirus, and at that time, Boris Johnson will be the Prime Minister. Johnson will inform the public that “our nation is extraordinarily well-prepared.”
It is also the day when members of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) meet for the 12th time, and it is the day that they discuss nursing homes for the very first time. The minutes of the meeting indicate how challenging it may be to maintain social distance in residential environments.
Liz was unable to pay her mother a visit when the epidemic was going on.
While this is going on, Margaret is thinking about other things. She writes that she is in good health but that the personnel situation is terrible.
In the days that followed, the virus began to spread across the United Kingdom. The National Health Service (NHS) has been the primary focus of attention. Personal safety equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves, is in short supply, according to care providers who work with vulnerable elderly and disabled clients. They are also demanding testing in addition to more transparent and expedited instructions from the government.
The National Health Service (NHS) issued directives to hospitals on March 17, instructing them to quickly release patients whenever it is practicable to do so, including into care homes. There is no need to do any testing or to isolate the problem.
After some time had passed, members of Margaret’s family claimed that they were informed that several hospital patients had been transferred to her care home.
On March 23, the whole nation fell into lockdown.
Margaret keeps a journal in which she records, over the course of many weeks, what she observes. It spans from a letter about the lack of potatoes for her supper to a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) form that she is requested to sign with the doctor on the phone and the matron in her room. The message about the absence of potatoes for her meal is included. She signs it at first, but then she requests that everything be “restored to its previous state.”
It would subsequently be reported that some patients in care homes in England were forbidden from having resuscitation attempts performed on them without any prior discussion.
The highest number of fatalities caused by COVID-19 in nursing homes occurs between the beginning and middle of April. Margaret writes in her letter of April 13 that the staff has begun monitoring her temperature on a daily basis. After that point, she has made it a habit to keep a record of it every day.
These are the nursing facilities that they were unable to preserve.
On April 15, the government will announce the publication of its social care action plan, in which it will state that all patients who have been released from the hospital will henceforth be tested. The previous piece of guidance said that “Negative [coronavirus] testing are not necessary prior to transfers/admissions into the care home.”
Margaret writes in her journal on April 20 that it is the “first day of masks,” and then on the 21st, she adds, “everyone wearing masks.”
On April 30, she wrote that her “breathing is quite poor” whenever she puts any effort into whatever she does.
Two days later, she was informed that her door had to remain closed for the sake of “public health.”
The following is what the entry for May 4, 2020, in my journal reads:
Caption for the image,
On May 4, 2020, Margaret recorded in her journal that she had the virus.
And on May 4, at 10:30 in the morning, after a visit from the matron, she writes in spidery characters, “I have the virus.”
Liz, the woman’s daughter, remarked that it was difficult to see. This is the last entry that Margaret will make in her journal; the pages that will follow will be blank and will tell their own tale.
Since Liz’s last visit to her mother about two months ago, she has been unable to get there. Now that Margaret had arrived at the hospital with the paramedics, she could only watch from a distance while her sister went inside.
They removed her from the ambulance as she was sitting in her wheelchair. And both of us waved. And it was the very last time that any of us were able to get a sight of her.
On May 14, 2020, Margaret passed away.
The next day, the individual who was serving as the Secretary of Health and Social Care at the time, Matt Hancock, made the now-famous remark in which he said, “Right from the beginning, we’ve attempted to put a protective ring around our care facilities.”
Liz claims that she was hurt and outraged when her mother passed away but that she gave it a lot of thinking before choosing to pursue legal action. Matt Hancock said this during the Downing Street daily press conference on May 15, 2020.
She claims, “I had the impression that her caring was absolutely absent.” In the end, we all place our confidence and our faith in the individuals who serve in public office. And there was a lot of running about like a chicken without its head going on. When was the planning going to happen?
The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 inquiry, which began taking testimony at the beginning of this year, will investigate many of the concerns that have arisen as a result of the epidemic, including what took place in care homes. However, it will not look into particular situations.
Emma Jones, a solicitor, has the desire to assist her clients in obtaining justice for their loved ones.
Solicitor Emma Jones, who is representing the families initiating legal action, has said that they would seek the courts to examine whether or not the choices adopted in their circumstances were justified.
“But if that’s not the case,” she continues, “did the choices in any way lead to the deaths of any individuals?” And I would suggest that if the families don’t pursue legal action, they won’t obtain answers to the issues that they have.
Nonetheless, a statement from the Department of Health and Social Care adds that “our sympathies are with all those who lost loved ones during the epidemic.” The government has said that it does not comment on pending legal actions; nonetheless, the statement comes from that department.
It states that the general public’s safety was a primary concern during the epidemic, in addition to the protection of inhabitants of care homes especially.
The report summarises its findings by stating, “We provided billions of pounds to help the sector, including on infection and preventive control, free PPE, and priority vaccines – with the great majority of eligible care workers and residents obtaining vaccinations.”