Posted: 19.11.20 at 17:53 by Beth Sharp
A full judicial review, brought forward by a grieving Sidmouth daughter, to hold the Government to account over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in care homes will go to trial.
Dr Cathy Gardner, who is also a Sidmouth councillor, lost her father, Michael Gibson, to Covid-19 in a care home that accepted hospital discharges earlier this year.
Today (Thursday, November 1), the High Court ruled that the case would proceed to a full judicial review of policies that Cllr Gardner alleges 'failed to take into account the vulnerability of care home residents and staff to infection and death, the inadequacy of testing and PPE availability'.
Dr Gardner has raised more than £90,000 through crowdfunding to help pay for the action.
She said: "I am delighted that the High Court granted permission today for my case to proceed to a full trial.
"Despite the Government strongly resisting the case Mr Justice Linden found that it was arguable that they had acted unlawfully over the way they have acted towards vulnerable care home residents during the pandemic.
"Matt Hancock has repeatedly stated that the government cast a protective ring around care homes right from the start.
"I believe that this is not true and that many elderly and vulnerable people lost their lives unnecessarily.
"The Government continues to fail to take responsibility for these catastrophic failures.
"It is my hope that the government will finally be held to account when this case is heard at a full trial next year.
"I wish to thank all the people who have so generously given to the case.
"We need to continue to fund raise so that we can get to trial. It is vital that the disastrous errors that have taken place do not happen again."
The Government denies acting illegally over care homes in England, where more than 15,000 people have died with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
But the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said the case 'raises potentially important issues of public interest and concern as to the way in which the rights of care home residents have been and will be protected during the current coronavirus pandemic'.
The Government and NHS now have to file their detailed evidence by January 22, 2021. It is expected the trial will take place around April or May next year.
In a statement on her crowdfunding page, Dr Gardner added: "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...
"For the first time we will see what the Government’s reasoning was in making some of the disastrous decisions they took – for example the requirement to urgently discharge patients from hospital without COVID-19 tests in March this year.
"We need continue to raise funds to be able to hold the Government to account for the loss of so many lives.
"I am so grateful for your generosity that has helped us get to this highly significant moment. Please share this page and many thanks again for all your donations and kind comments of support."
The arguments filed by Dr Gardner claim the Government's decisions to prioritise NHS hospital capacity to deal with critically ill Covid-19 patients were 'disproportionate, discriminatory and irrational'.
She also alleges that the Government breached the NHS Act 2006, which obliges the health secretary to take steps to protect the public in England 'from disease or other dangers to health'.
The Government strongly denies the claims and says it took extensive steps to protect staff and residents in care homes. It denies breaching obligations under the European convention on human rights to manage risks posed by the virus to care home staff and residents.
It said the convention must not be used to enforce an 'impossible or disproportionate burden on the authorities'.
CLICK HERE to see Dr Gardner's crowdfunding page and for more information and background on the case.