As the coronavirus pandemic continues, growing concern has been raised about the number of cases occurring in care homes and the rate in which the infection has spread.
Although the figures change daily, it is understood that there have been more than 19,000 coronavirus related deaths among care home residents since March.
Medical negligence solicitors, Blackwater Law were contacted by BBC Radio 4 who were covering coronavirus and care homes on its Today programme on Friday 7th August. In advance of the programme’s report, Jason Brady, Partner & Head of Blackwater Law was able to provide an illustration of the types of enquiries that the medical negligence solicitors were receiving and the process following the initial enquiry.
Journalist Ross Hawkins on the Today programme discussed how at present, Blackwater Law have been contacted by approximately 20-30 families who have lost a loved one in a care home due to coronavirus. The families are understandably grieving but are also frustrated and angry that they may have lost a loved one potentially due to insufficient policies and procedures in place to protect them.
Jason had informed Mr Hawkins in advance of the programme how each individual enquiry requires an in-depth review and understanding of the unique circumstances before it can be considered to have a potential case against the care home in question. It is important for the families and loved ones to have evidence to enable the medical negligence team to have an accurate representation of the circumstances surrounding the death and to understand whether any negligence did occur. Blackwater Law now have a number of families in the process of collecting and gathering information to enable Blackwater Law to understand whether there is a potential case. At present, these remain in the early stages.
There are a huge number of factors that need to be reviewed and given that the majority of residents in a care home would by their nature fall into a vulnerable category by the fact that many are aged 70 plus, care homes should have rigorous policies in place to protect their residents. This includes sufficient staff testing, PPE, cleaning measures, stringent visiting policies and risk assessments amongst many other factors. In order to establish whether negligence had occurred, it is important for all the above factors to be reviewed, factoring that each care home will have developed unique policies and guidelines in line with its requirements.
Given the early stages, Blackwater Law are unaware as to how many families may be eligible for compensation.
Jason Brady, solicitor and head of Blackwater Law comments:
“We are receiving a wide range of reasons for people wanting to make claims against care homes, but an overriding theme is that residents who have not left the home for the entirety of the lockdown period have contracted the virus and died, with relatives implying that a lack of testing, PPE and safety measures for the staff and visitors have impacted the residents.
“Care homes appear to have implemented different strategies and safety precautions to cope with the pandemic, so every case would need to be thoroughly investigated to determine whether or not the strategies and safety precautions put in place were adequate and followed by staff members with the backdrop of an emergency situation being considered.
“There may also have been incidents where hospital patients have been discharged and transferred to a care home setting with Covid-19 without being tested whilst in hospital which may have led to avoidable deaths and the disease spreading. This may be a failing in care by the hospitals and may lead to separate claims also. Such potential claims would need to be thoroughly investigated also with the backdrop of an emergency situation being considered.”