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Bereaved families in Wales plan legal action on care homes


A solicitor representing 350 families who lost loved ones to Covid has said it is likely that legal action will be taken against the Welsh government.

The announcement follows a High Court ruling that discharging patients to care homes in England at the start of the pandemic was unlawful.

All patients in England were tested when discharged from 15 April 2020 but in Wales the policy change was made a fortnight later.

The ruling came after two women, Dr Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris, took Public Health England and the then England health secretary, Matt Hancock, to court over what they called a "shocking death toll".

The lawyer acting on behalf of the Covid-19 bereaved Families for Justice Cymru Troup, Craig Court, told BBC Cymru Wales's Newyddion S4C programme: "If decisions in England were unlawful, it probably follows that decisions in Wales were unlawful.

"And if the delay in making changes in England was unlawful, it follows that a further two-week delay in Wales was unlawful. The difficulty with a claim will be in the detail. That's something we're still taking in. but I think further litigation will follow as a result of the decision."

A Newport nursing home, Tregwilym, lost more than 20 residents to Covid during the 2020 Easter weekend.

Chief executive of the group of care home companies responsible for the home, Brian Rosenberg, said he suspected Covid entered the home through one person discharged from hospital untested. 

He said: "Undertakers were so overwhelmed not only with us, but with people passing away in the community, that they couldn't even remove the bodies quick enough."

He believes lives could have been saved if policy had been changed and added: "More could have been done by just applying a safe discharge policy, by being cautious, just recognising the frailty of people in care homes. I'm very angry and upset that by applying common sense we could have avoided a lot of this."

Margaret Williams, who lost her 95-year-old mother, Peggy Patrick, who had been had been living with dementia at a care home, said she was not made aware that her mother had Covid when she died in April 2020 until she saw the death certificate.

She said that she hoped that the High Court ruling in England would give her, and other families, justice because it strengthened calls for an independent Covid inquiry in Wales.

She said: "Surely this Welsh government should realise we need answers. They need to admit where failings were. I think circumstances in Wales were different and those need to be looked at - and whoever is in power needs to make that happen."

The Welsh government has consistently rejected calls for a separate Covid inquiry in Wales, saying decisions made in Cardiff will be scrutinised in the wider UK inquiry.

Reacting to the High Court judgment in an interview for the BBC's Politics Wales programme, first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, said: "I'll study what the High Court had to say. It does look like it is an important judgment and it may have implications for us in Wales.

"But having not been part of the case at any point, it wouldn't be right for me to draw conclusions on what I have read in newspaper reports."