Covid inquiry: Discrimination against care homes contributed to deaths

Research commissioned in the Scottish coronavirus inquiry has questioned the 'legal basis' of care home restrictions during the pandemic.

‘Discrimination’ against care homes contributed to death, inquiry research finds iStock
Research papers into the Scottish Government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has been published.

Research commissioned by the inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has found that they were “ill-prepared” and that “discrimination” against care homes contributed to deaths.

A report that is part of the Scotland’s independent coronavirus inquiry, led by Lady Poole Q, looked at 12 areas around the handling of the pandemic in the country, including health, education and the impact on care and nursing homes.

The research questioned the “legal basis” on the “severe restrictions” imposed on care homes during the pandemic, such as banning any visitation from loved ones, and residents being unable to leave.

Effects from these rules caused “great distress” and contributed to the decline of health and even death for some residents, the research found.

The report read: “Care home residents were subject to severe restrictions for many months, including bans on visits, being unable to leave the home, and being cared for primarily in their room.

“This caused great distress and is likely to have contributed to a number of cases to cognitive and emotional decline and even death.

“The need for some restriction was understandable, given the vulnerability of care home residents and the large number of deaths in the sector.

“However, the legal basis of the restrictions is unclear, and there was arguably discrimination in respect of this group, compared with the rest of the community.

“There is little evidence in the early months of consideration of the human rights of residents and their families, including the proportionality of measures generally or in individual cases.

“Matters improved from autumn 2020, although the guidance on outbreaks meant many residents still faced severe restrictions for many weeks.”

The findings come after policies discharging untested hospital patients to care homes was found to be unlawful at the High Court in London.

The research also found that the Scottish Government was “caught-out” by the speed of the virus’ transmission and was forced to alter plans – which did not consider the most “vulnerable” of the population.

It read: “Despite warnings, the Scottish government – like the UK government and the governments of other developed economies – was ill-prepared for a pandemic.

“In December 2020, the Scottish Government was ‘caught out’ by the speed of virus transmission and had to make the difficult policy decision to alter Christmas plans.

“Overall, there is convincing evidence that while public health measures were brought in to protect the Scottish population, the impact of these changes on the daily lives of some vulnerable populations and people involved in their care were not fully considered.”