Two hospitals in the Bristol area discharged dozens of patients into care homes without Covid testing

Bristol Royal Infirmary
Dozens of patients were discharged into care homes from the Bristol Royal Infirmary - without being tested - early on in the pandemic. Credit: Bristol Live

More than 180 patients from Bristol Royal Infirmary and Weston General Hospital were discharged into care homes without being tested for coronavirus, according to a Freedom of Information Request.

The patients were released during the early months of the pandemic before the introduction of more stringent testing measures.

The figures have just been released to the Bristol Live website - almost two and a half months after journalists submitted their original request.

The National Care Association says the impact on care homes from taking untested and Covid-positive patients was “devastating”.

And Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire condemned the Government’s “disastrous” decision to allow the patients to be discharged into care homes.

The trust responsible - University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust - insisted it had followed national guidance throughout the pandemic in the way it had released patients.

The figures, obtained by Bristol Live, reveal 120 untested patients were released into care homes by the Bristol Royal Infirmary, while 64 untested patients were discharged in the same way from Weston General.

Three Covid-positive patients were also discharged into care homes by the BRI - two in April and one in June.

Four patients from Weston with Covid-19 were discharged in the same way - two in April and two in May.

In all these cases, the trust maintains patients were discharged with the "appropriate PPE".

Sixty four patients were discharged into care homes from Weston General without being tested. Credit: Bristol Live

Nadra Ahmed OBE, executive chairman of the National Care Association, told Bristol Live: “We have clear indicators here that care homes were seen as the preferred option to discharge people into to ensure NHS capacity as the virus took hold.

“There was no foresight to instigate testing to ensure that the discharges were safe.

“The results were devastating for the residents and staff in our services; providers were left to access PPE as their supplies were diverted to the NHS."

“There was a complete absence of managing the risks attached as government policy centred around keeping the NHS safe.”

Bristol West’s Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire said: “From speaking to hospital workers and care home staff in Bristol, I know many of them made huge sacrifices and put their own lives on the line.

“They did all they could to protect patients and residents. But they were let down by disastrous decisions from an incompetent government."

Carolyn Mills, chief nurse at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Throughout the pandemic we have followed national guidance in relation to testing our inpatients prior to discharge.

“As the pandemic has progressed, a better understanding about the Covid-19 infection and its transmission has resulted in national guidance that has been reviewed and revised as necessary.

“We have, and continue to, follow the national guidance and work closely with our health and social care partners to ensure our patients are discharged safely.”

The trust says all referral forms for discharges to care homes explained whether patients were symptomatic, and whether they had been on a ward with Covid-positive patients.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic, our approach has been guided by the latest scientific advice, and it is because of the work we were doing to monitor outbreaks in care homes that they received advice on March 13 setting out actions to take around infection control and isolating residents or staff displaying symptoms.

“To help further reduce the spread of infection in care homes regular testing for staff and residents has now begun, beginning with homes for over 65s and those with dementia before extending to all adult care homes.”