Amnesty International report states the UK Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to older people in care homes was a violation of their human rights

Amnesty International (“AI”) has published a report titled, ‘As if expendable: The UK Government’s failure to protect older people in care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic’. The report is very damming of the UK Government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak and states that sending thousands of older people untested from hospitals into care homes in England at the start of the coronavirus pandemic was a violation of their human rights.

The Executive Summary in the AI report refers to some shocking statistics relating to deaths of residents in care homes. It states that, “Between 2 March 2020 and 12 June 2020, 18,562 residents of care homes in England died with COVID-19, including 18,168 people aged 65 and over, representing almost 40% of all deaths involving COVID-19 in England during this period. Of these deaths, 13,844 (76%) happened in care homes themselves; nearly all of the remainder occurred in a hospital. During the same period, 28,186 “excess deaths” were recorded in care homes in England, representing a 46% increase compared with the same period in previous years. These excess deaths likely include undiagnosed COVID-19 deaths, and underscore the broader impact of the pandemic on older people in care homes.”

AI claims in its report that, “The UK government, national agencies, and local-level bodies have taken decisions and adopted policies during the COVID-19 pandemic that have directly violated the human rights of older residents of care homes in England—notably their right to life, their right to health, and their right to non-discrimination. These decisions and policies have also impacted the rights of care home residents to private and family life, and may have violated their right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment.”

The report sets out a list of the ways in which policy decisions in England increased care home residents’ risk of exposure to coronavirus:

  • Mass discharges from hospital into care homes of patients infected or possibly infected with COVID19 and advice that “negative tests are not required prior to transfers / admissions into the care home”.
  • Advice to care homes that “no personal protective equipment (PPE) is required if the worker and the resident are not symptomatic,” and a failure to ensure adequate provisions of PPE to care homes.
  • A failure to assess care homes’ capability to cope with and isolate infected or possibly infected patients discharged from hospitals, and failure to put in place adequate emergency mechanisms to help care homes respond to additional needs and diminished resources.
  • A failure to ensure regular testing of care home workers and residents.
  • Imposition of blanket Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) orders on residents of many care homes around the country and restrictions on residents’ access to hospital.
  • Suspension of regular oversight procedures for care homes by the statutory regulating body, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

AI states that the public inquiry into the pandemic should begin with an “interim phase” and stated that, “The pandemic is not over… Lessons must be learned; remedial action must be taken without delay to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.”

A full copy of the AI report can be accessed here.