Devon

Coronavirus: Government sued over care home deaths 'disgrace'

Cathy Gardner with her dad Image copyright Cathy Gardner
Image caption Dr Cathy Gardner with her father Michael Gibson who died in a care home in Oxfordshire in April

A woman who said goodbye to her dying father through a care home window is suing the government over his death.

Dr Cathy Gardner's father, Michael Gibson, 88, died of probable Covid-19 related causes on 3 April.

Her case, which accuses the government of unlawfully exposing thousands of care home residents to serious harm, will be filed at the High Court today.

The Department for Health and Social Care said it could not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

Dr Gardner, from Sidmouth, Devon, said her father's death was part of a "national disgrace".

She added her case was about everybody, including care home residents, staff and the family members of those who had been put at risk or died.

More than 14,000 people have died from coronavirus in England and Wales care homes since the start of the pandemic.

The government has faced criticism for policies allowing patients to be discharged from hospitals into care homes without being tested for Covid-19.

Lawyers representing Dr Gardner sent a pre-action letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, NHS England and Public Health England on 2 June, demanding they admit those policies were unlawful.

The government has until Tuesday to respond but lawyer Paul Conrathe, representing Dr Gardner, said the case needed to be lodged on Friday before receiving a reply due to time limits.

"Legally the state is required to protect its citizens, protect their right to life," he said.

"Our view is not only did they not protect them but they actively exposed them to harm."

Mr Gibson, who had Alzheimer's, was a resident at the Cherwood House Care Centre, near Bicester, Oxfordshire.

Changing advice

Dr Gardner, who praised the care he was given there, was able to see him through a window the night before he died.

She said: "This was heart-breaking, it's not how I imagined his last days would be."

His cause of death was recorded as probable Covid-19-related but he had not been tested.

Dr Gardner's lawyers claim that prior to his death the care home had been pressured into taking a hospital patient who had tested positive for Covid-19 but "had not had a temperature for about 72 hours".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption More than 14,000 care home residents with coronavirus have died in England and Wales

Dr Gardner, a microbiologist with a PhD in virology, said: "Somebody needed to take the lead and I thought ... I can so I should.

"It is a national disgrace and it needs to be held up as such and not just brushed under the carpet."

Dr Gardner, who is also chair of East Devon District Council, is crowdfunding to help cover legal fees and has so far raised £10,000.

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