Amnesty: UK gov't violated human rights of care home residents during COVID-19

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The Union flag flies in front of the Clock face on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben on April 2, 2019, in London, England. |

Over 18,562 residents of care homes in England died with COVID-19 in a little more than three months and many of these deaths could be due to the U.K. government’s pandemic policies, which violated the human rights of vulnerable older people, says a report by Amnesty International.

The U.K.-based group looked at the number of residents of care homes who tested positive for the novel coronavirus and died between March 2 and June 12 and found that they represented 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,” says the report.

“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 group said care home managers told its researchers that “they were pressured in different ways to accept patients discharged from hospital who had not been tested or who were COVID-19 positive.”

According to the guidance issued by the government on April 2, care homes needed to make their full capacity available, the group pointed out.

“Managers of care homes where local authorities had block-purchased beds in their facilities who were uncomfortable about accepting patients discharged from hospital felt that they had no choice but to honour their contractual obligation—even though the COVID-19 risk intervened after they had signed the contract,” it explained.

“There have also been reports of financial pressure being put on homes to receive people with coronavirus, including care homes being offered cash to take people patients discharged from hospital, and local authorities making additional funds conditional on care homes accepting patients discharged from hospital untested or COVID-19 positive.”

Warning that the pandemic is not over, Amnesty International urged that “no effort be spared to establish the factors that resulted in such disproportionate impact on older people in care homes.”

The report stated, “Lessons must be learned; remedial action must be taken without delay to ensure that mistakes are not repeated; flawed decision-making processes must be reviewed and rectified, and those responsible for negligent decisions must be held to account.

“From discharging 25,000 patients, including those infected, into care homes; to denying care homes residents admission to hospital and imposing ‘do not attempt resuscitation’ orders on them without due process, to failing to provide PPE and testing to care homes – older persons living in care homes were abandoned to die.”

The U.K. currently has over 518,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 42,459 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there are over 35 million cases and 1,038,958 deaths as of Monday.

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