Elderly with coronavirus were sent away from hospitals into care homes

Sent into care homes like sacrificial lambs: Horrific evidence reveals that elderly with the virus were knowingly sent away from hospitals into facilities then devastated by fatal outbreaks

  • Government guidelines said patients could be released into care homes till April
  • A dozen died at St Nicholas Care Home in Liverpool after hospital discharge
  • Brian Taylor, 90,  died in Halifax after coronavirus was brought into the home 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

The devastating toll of the Government’s ‘disastrous’ policy of encouraging care homes to take patients with coronavirus is revealed today.

Grieving relatives told of their ‘agony and anger’ at losing elderly loved ones because of the strategy, which they say ‘abandoned an entire generation.’

Care home managers also complained that they had been ‘pressured’ into taking the patients.

Until April 16, Government guidelines said patients should be released into care homes even if they had tested positive for covid-19, or without any test at all, a move MPs said ‘beggars belief’.

Former engineer Brian Taylor with his daughter Jean Richardson, 63, on his 90th birthday. Mr Taylor, 90, died at Summerfield House Nursing Home in Halifax after coronavirus was brought into the home

The family of great-grandmother Sylvia Williams, 87, said staff at the Elsinor home in Scarborough had not explained how they believe she contracted Covid-19

Great-grandmother Beryl Bettridge was used as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ to free hospital beds after being sent back to her care home despite having coronavirus, her family said yesterday

Even when carers tried to isolate recently discharged infected residents it still triggered outbreaks that tore through homes, claiming the lives of many more residents.

Despite this, the latest Government policy still allows for some patients who have tested positive for covid-19 in hospitals to be released to care homes, and:

  • Outbreaks caused by this strategy meant some residents were forced to die alone and in agony because overwhelmed homes did not have enough staff to be with every victim as they passed away.
  • In an appalling indignity, the surge in fatalities it created meant a death had to be confirmed by care staff ‘FaceTiming’ overstretched GPs who inspected a dead resident using their phone camera.
  • One man said his mother was used as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ to free hospital beds after she was sent back to her care home despite having coronavirus.
  • The equalities watchdog is considering whether human rights laws were breached by hospitals discharging older patients into care homes.

It wasn’t his time, says family of victim aged 90 

The daughter of a man of 90 who died at a nursing home after a resident was admitted from hospital with Covid-19 said last night: ‘It was not his time to go.’

Brian Taylor died at Summerfield House Nursing Home in Halifax at the end of March after several residents fell ill.

One resident went into Calderdale Hospital on March 20, tested positive for the virus and was returned to the home. Several others then had symptoms.

Mr Taylor’s daughter, teacher Jean Richardson, was told about the outbreak but was reassured her father was fine. However, the former engineer died, struggling to breathe, over a week later.

On April 8 the nurse called to say he was ‘very tired’. A doctor checked him the next morning, but the following afternoon staff called to say he was struggling to breathe. When Mrs Richardson got there 20 minutes later, he was dead. Heart failure, diabetes and high blood pressure were listed on his death certificate, but not Covid-19.

Mrs Richardson, pictured with her father at left, said: ‘I know he had longer to live. I’ll never be sure what happened to him in those last days… because he’s not been tested. How did coronavirus get into the home?’

Manager Carl Stevenson said the home took extra precautions to keep coronavirus out, including excluding visitors before it was required to.

He added: ‘The resident was discharged from hospital in line with official guidance and the hospital’s policies. They were isolated for 14 days.’

Calderdale Hospital did not to comment last night.

The family of a great-grandmother told of their grief last night following her death from corona after an infected resident was allowed into her care home.

Wendy Raine, daughter of Sylvia Williams, 87, pictured, said carers at the Elsinor home in Scarborough told her a week before the virus struck that her mother had no signs of illness.

On April 21 the former hotelier was taken to hospital with an infected bed sore. The next morning she tested positive, and died on April 29.

Mrs Raine said: ‘The home had been on lockdown for six weeks. Sending people with the disease into care homes is a ticking timebomb.’

The home manager said there was a ‘policy the home was legally bound to adhere to’.

Beryl Bettridge was used as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ to free hospital beds after being sent back to her care home despite having coronavirus, her family said yesterday.

Relatives of the great-grandmother, 89, pictured, say they were told when she left Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham she was virus free. But her condition deteriorated after she went back to Eden Lodge Care Home and she died days later on April 26.

Her son, Adrian, 58, only found she died of Covid-19 when he couldn’t pay his respects at the chapel of rest because she’d been infected. He said: ‘They sent my mum out to die. She was a sacrificial lamb.’ The home told him it would not have taken her if it knew she had the virus. Queens said it followed national guidance.

At St Nicholas Care Home in Bootle, Liverpool, 12 residents died after Aintree Hospital discharged two patients to it without testing them for coronavirus. One or two died almost every day over two weeks after the virus ripped through the home.

It had decided to lock down two weeks before official Government guidance to protect its 150 residents.

The policy kept it free of the virus until the hospital asked to discharge two untested patients into its empty beds between March 30 and April 4.

Staff isolated them in line with Government advice at the time, but they – and several other residents – soon showed coronavirus symptoms.

‘We requested that if we were going to be taking people into the home that they were tested,’ general manager Jayms Bell said.

‘We were met with resistance as they weren’t routinely testing people in hospital who were being discharged.

‘Aside from taking their word that the person wasn’t symptomatic at that time, there wasn’t much wiggle room on that.’ Mr Bell described as ‘traumatic’ the fact that some of the residents who died had been at the home for 14 years, adding: ‘It has had a massive impact on staff – they’re like their family.’

Bosses said it was ‘highly likely’ that a hospital patient brought coronavirus into the home – but they cannot say for sure thanks to the lack of testing.

The home’s operations manager, Adrienne Gresty, said Aintree Hospital ‘wanted the bed – it was almost as if they weren’t bothered about the impact that would have’.

Miss Gresty said she was angry about how the hospital dumped patients in the home without apparent ‘thought or consideration’ of the consequences, adding: ‘There was not enough consideration that as soon as the virus entered a care home there was going to be a problem.’

A manager of a care home in East Sussex, who declined to be named, said she quit following a 30-year career when she was put under ‘constant pressure’ by hospitals to accept patients with coronavirus.

It led to the contagion tearing through her home – which had previously been free of the virus – killing 30 residents.

The manager said: ‘Covid got so bad that at one point we had four deaths in one day.

‘It meant we couldn’t get round to them at all at same time and one was left to die alone – something we never wanted to happen. It was so undignified.’

The final straw for her was when a resident died and the doctor could not come to check the body because the virus was so rife in the home.

She added: ‘We had to FaceTime the GP and hold the phone while shining a torch into the dead resident’s eyes so he could confirm the death.

‘It felt like these people just didn’t matter.’

Government guidelines published on April 2 encouraged care homes to accept discharged patients whether they were showing symptoms or not. Negative tests were not required prior to transfers or admissions from hospitals into care homes.

The policy was designed to free up beds in hospitals.

The Department of Health changed this strategy on April 16 to give more protection.

But the revised policy still states that some patients who have tested positive can continue to be sent to care homes.

It added: ‘They will have been covid-19 tested and have confirmed covid-positive status.

‘Some care providers will be able to accommodate these individuals through effective isolation strategies or cohorting policies.’ But campaigners warned that given attempts to isolate these patients in the past appeared to have failed to stop outbreaks, more deaths should be expected as a result of this policy.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said this week it was considering investigating the legality of discharging possibly infected patients from hospitals into care homes.

A spokesman for Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for Aintree Hospital, said it followed Government guidance at all times in discharging patients to St Nicholas Care Home, adding: ‘Patient care and safety is our priority, and throughout the covid-19 pandemic we have followed the guidance for hospitals and care homes, with clear actions for both, from the Department of Health and Social Care.

‘The patients involved were not displaying any covid-19 symptoms prior to their transfer to the care home.

‘In line with national guidance at the time, these patients did not meet the testing criteria, but a health-needs assessment was carried out as required.’

The Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment last night. 

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