Woman from Sidmouth takes legal action against government over handling of covid-19 in care homes

A woman from Sidmouth who lost her father to 'probable covid-19' whilst he was in a care home is launching High Court proceedings to sue the government over his death.

Dr Cathy Gardner - a microbiologist with a PhD in virology - said goodbye to her 88-year-old father, Michael Gibson, through a care home window in early April.

She says the government allowed patients to be sent back into their care homes after being in hospital with covid-19 symptoms - branding it a 'national disgrace'.

She went on to add that she was determined to hold the government to account as a result.

Michael Gibson died at the age of 88. Credit: Cathy Gardner

Her father had Alzheimers and was a resident at Cherwood House Care Centre, near Bicester, Oxfordshire.

He died on Friday 3 April after the care home accepted the return of a resident from hospital who had previously tested positive for covid-19.

Michael was not tested for the virus but his recorded cause of death was probable covid-19.

Dr Gardner told ITV News: "I don't hold my father's care home responsible at all".

She said she feels staff and managers there had been put in an impossible situation by the government, who have always maintained that they've been guided by the science.

Michael was a resident at the care home where he was cared for with Alzheimer's. Credit: ITV West Country

Dr Gardner who is the Chair of East Devon District Council, believes a lack of government testing may have led to his death.

She fears the care home was pressured into taking back a resident who had been admitted to hospital with covid-19 symptoms - at a time when no testing was taking place.

Cherwood House Care Centre, near Bicester, Oxfordshire. Credit: ITV West Country

Lawyers will be lodging legal papers on behalf of Dr Gardner on Friday, as part of moves seeking a judicial review over whether care home policies exposed residents to the risk of harm.

Dr Gardiner's legal action hinges on allegations that guidance issued to care homes during February and March saw the government breach its legal duty to protect care home residents and workers.

A government spokesman said they could not comment on possible legal action over its care homes policy. However, legally the government will need to respond to the claims by next Tuesday, 16 June.

But the spokesperson did go on to say that they have tried to put a 'protective ring' around care homes throughout the pandemic. And when people have been discharged from hospital it has been done so as safely as possible.

A crowdfunding campaign to pay for Dr Gardiner's legal costs is also attracting support.

The Government legally need to respond by next Tuesday. Credit: ITV West Country

Dr Gardner said she was left 'appalled' by comments from Health Secretary Matt Hancock in May in which he said a 'protective ring' had been placed around care homes during the crisis.

She said: "The truth is that there has been, at best, a casual approach to protecting the residents of care homes; at worst, the government have adopted a policy that has caused the death of the most vulnerable in our society.

"It is completely unacceptable that this happened and that responsibility has been avoided."

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

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