It is a bitter verdict that will undoubtedly express the anger and fear of thousands of families: The government's pandemic policy has violated the basic human rights of vulnerable elderly people in care, according to a key report.
"Inexplicable" decisions were made that were "careless at best".
The measures have exposed elderly residents to the virus and crucially prevented them from receiving life-saving medical care. And ultimately, it led to tens of thousands of deaths, according to Amnesty International's analysis, shared exclusively with The Mail on the Sunday before it was released.
The report will make it clear that ministers knew from the start that Covid-19 posed an exceptional threat to the 400,000 nursing home residents in the UK, many of whom are frail and live in various health conditions. But while it has consistently been suggested that the need to protect them is at the heart of politics, the opposite has been the case.
The houses were "overwhelmed" by infections and the elderly were treated "inhumanly and degrading". The review paints the government as "directly responsible" and exposes a litany of errors and sinister edicts that led to tragedy.
Amnesty International's report will show that ministers knew from the start that Covid-19 posed an exceptional threat to the 400,000 nursing home residents in the UK, many of whom are frail and live in various health conditions. But while the need to protect her has been claimed to be at the center of the policy, the opposite has been the case (pictured is a nurse sitting next to a resident of the Wren Hall nursing home in Selston).
The houses were "overwhelmed" by infections and the elderly were treated "inhumanly and degrading". The review finds the government "directly responsible" and reveals a litany of mistakes that led to a tragedy (pictured, worker residing in Elstree).
Within three months, the care sector was hit by a tsunami of deaths: 28,186 deaths were recorded in care homes, 18,562 of which were from Covid-19 – 40 percent of all deaths from the virus.
It is assumed that the other deaths, around 10,000, – due to a lack of tests – and as an indirect consequence of the pandemic, were not registered as Covid.
Amnesty is now calling for an independent public inquiry to be launched immediately – a move that would force officials to produce documents and records they have previously kept secret. Ministers, including Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock, who is ultimately in charge of the strategy, would also be asked to testify under oath and forced to justify their actions.
In July the Prime Minister agreed to an independent investigation "in the future", but Amnesty stressed the urgency of the matter. They say that while such deliberations can take years, it should be possible to immediately start a quick “intermediate phase” and make quick recommendations. With Covid infections worsening and the threat of a second national lockdown looming, it is imperative to take immediate action to determine what went wrong to prevent further preventable deaths.
"Too much time has already been lost," the report added. The report is aptly titled "As if they were consumable" and also describes how:
- Nursing home residents suspected of having Covid-19 received no hospital treatment and died in distress from the virus without adequate medical care – despite local hospitals having "hundreds" empty beds;
- Health chiefs instructed general practitioners to pressure the nursing home staff to issue blanket resuscitation orders to all residents without discussion. Instructions were often given orally instead of in writing – without traces of paper;
- A manager who tried to hospitalize a critically ill resident in March was told, "He's at the end of his life anyway, so we're not going to send an ambulance."
- Nursing bosses continued to lockdown – forbidding families to visit relatives, leading to further hardship and death – because they feared failure to follow “excessive” government orders would result in their being sued or deprived of their license to operate;
- Despite repeated appeals, the government and public agencies have withheld key data on the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes and refused to reveal how many key decisions have been made.
Amnesty is calling for an independent public inquiry to be launched immediately – a move that would force officers to produce documents and records they have kept secret (pictured is a worker residing in Elstree).
The study was led by Amnesty's senior crisis response investigator Donatella Rovera, who spoke to families and whistleblowers for months.
Although she had reported on conflict areas such as Libya, Syria, Yemen and Sudan, she was "troubled" by what emerged.
"We're used to people in war zones being afraid to speak out because there is an immediate danger that they or their families will have an impact," she said. "But what I didn't expect was to find such fear of getting on the record in a progressive country like Britain."
As the pandemic broke out across Europe, the government's coronavirus action plan on March 3 – just over a month after the UK's first case of Covid-19 was reported – stressed the risk of serious illness and death in the elderly and in People with underlying health risk conditions such as seasonal flu ".
At this point, harrowing scenes of hospitals in northern Italy flooded with patients and terrifying stories of doctors forced to make unbearable decisions about who should treat and who should die surfaced.
British doctors who spoke to The Mail on Sunday insisted that this should never happen here.
And it stayed partially true – NHS hospitals never reached capacity, and the pioneering Nightingale facilities, furnished with thousands of intensive care beds, were barely used.
However, the Amnesty investigation found that elderly people in nursing homes were effectively thrown under the bus to protect the NHS and avoid politically disastrous images of overcrowded emergency rooms.
A pivotal moment came on March 17th: NHS England instructed hospitals to urgently discharge patients, including those with Covid-19, to nursing homes. There were 25,000 such transmissions in just one month. The rush for empty beds was so great that care managers told Amnesty that elderly patients arrived "without teeth or glasses".
"The day dad started coughing, they wrote him off": How "fit as a violin" Geoffrey Ward, 76, died with symptoms of Covid because the nurses did NOT take him to the hospital
Before the pandemic, Martin Ward's father, Geoffrey (76), was "fit as a violin" (pictured with his grandchild).
Before the pandemic, Martin Ward's father Geoffrey (76) was "fit as a violin". In 2005, the former printer suffered a serious brain injury in a car accident, which is why he had to be looked after around the clock.
"He was healthy, but he was going to migrate and he had no spatial awareness so he had to watch," said Martin, 44, a married father of two from Ulverston, Cumbria. Geoffrey lived with family members until 2017. He then moved to a nursing home just five minutes later – and his sons visited him regularly. The visits were stopped in March. “We were allowed to see each other through a window, which wasn't perfect because his attention span wasn't long and he wandered off. But it was fine under the circumstances, ”said Martin.
Then on April 18th the call came. "The nursing home manager told us he had a cough and a fever," said Martin. She said it was probably Covid, but she appeared calm. So at first I thought he would get over it.
“But the next day – that's the most annoying part – a doctor called and told us there was no doubt that it would end his life, that he would not go to the hospital and that the house would give him morphine to keep him calm to keep.
"My father hadn't been tested, but the doctor said they examined him on a video call and based on his symptoms, they believed it was Covid."
Over the next few days, after receiving reports that their father's condition was worsening, Martin and his brother Andrew had a series of consultations with the family doctor. "I asked if he needed oxygen and was told it would not help a man his age," he said.
That week Geoffrey was found on the floor of his room.
"The paramedics examined him, found no injuries, put him to bed and left," said Martin.
“We were allowed to stand on the other side of the room in full PPE. My father was sitting in bed, but his breathing was difficult and he seemed really uncomfortable. We asked again if he needed to go to the hospital as this would have happened if he had still lived with us, but the answer was no. They said he would only be given morphine when the time came. & # 39;
The house called on April 26 to say Geoffrey had turned for bad. When his sons arrived he was dead.
Martin is confused and heartbroken: “To this day, I don't understand why he wasn't offered an intervention. He was physically fit, had no complaints and was enjoying life. You should have tried. I think from the day he started coughing it was decided that he was going to die and that was it. & # 39;
Amnesty has questioned the need for such an urgency. A member of a discharge team in the south of England said, "We had between 500 and 600 empty beds and no one came to the emergency room so there really was no need."
Homes that resisted admitting discharged patients threatened cuts by local authorities.
And, amazingly, the government's guidance was that Covid tests weren't required – nor were they provided on demand.
Homes were unprepared for the influx: more than half of managers in a survey said they were unable to effectively isolate suspected Covid-19 residents from the hospital.
Nursing staff continued to work even if they had coronavirus symptoms, the report added. Some said they were pressured by managers, others for financial reasons.
In addition, there is apparently a second, unfathomable and extremely shocking decision.
Amnesty has received several reports that nursing home residents have been denied hospital admission – which could not be explained by necessity as the hospital bed capacity was never reached. Some who suffered from deterioration and painful breathing difficulties did not receive oxygen treatment and subsequently died.
Nursing home managers claimed that sending residents to the hospital had been "severely discouraged or rejected outright". A Yorkshire nursing home manager told Amnesty: “In March I tried to hospitalize (a resident). The doctor said, "Well, he's at the end of his life anyway, so we're not going to send an ambulance." Under normal circumstances he would have gone to the hospital. & # 39;
And a manager in Hampshire recalled: “There was an assumption that people in nursing homes would die if they got Covid, which is wrong. We managed to send a patient to the hospital because the nurse was very firm and insisted that the lady was too uncomfortable.
In the hospital, she tested positive for Covid, treated her and survived. She is 92 and now in great shape. & # 39;
To exacerbate the situation, general practitioners also limited personal consultations at the beginning of March, except “when absolutely necessary”.
A large nursing home group told Amnesty: “General practitioners and district nurses have not come to most of our homes since the pandemic started. Not even changing a (urinary) catheter, which nurses cannot do. Staff were forced to do jobs they shouldn't, but there was no choice. & # 39;
Managers also reported pressure from local health chiefs to put blanket "do not resuscitate" orders – called DNARs – on residents.
"Discussions about advanced care should be warm and neutral," said one manager.
'It shouldn't be done like that. A house with 26 residents had to sign 16 DNARs within 24 hours, which was a burden for employees and residents.
"Nursing homes have been turned into hospices and asked to manage deaths rather than manage lives."
The combined result: Official figures show that 11,800 fewer nursing home residents were hospitalized in March and April compared to previous years. And of the 18,562 care home residents in England who died from Covid-19, 13,844 died in the homes themselves.
A senior emergency medicine advisor, who asked to remain anonymous as his NHS trust is preventing doctors from speaking to journalists about the pandemic, and threatens to suspend them if this happens, described the situation as "dire".
They added, “A DNAR is specifically related to CPR – it shouldn't affect whether or not a person receives hospital treatment or even intensive care. It is absolutely appalling that political influence has led to this misinterpretation and urgent investigation is needed. & # 39;
The problem of testing has remained persistently unsolvable.
Finally, in June, the Department of Health and Welfare promised to offer weekly tests for nursing home staff and tests for residents "every 28 days".
But Amnesty says they have reports that in some cases this has still not happened.
As the pandemic subsided, deaths from Covid in nursing homes fell – but they account for 40 percent of all deaths in the UK from the virus. Even more worrying, during the peak, more than 10,000 "excessive deaths" were recorded in care homes not directly related to Covid-19. The exact causes are not known – but figures show that far fewer patients have been treated for heart attacks, cancer, strokes and diabetes since the beginning of the pandemic. Dementia deaths – regardless of Covid – have also increased by more than 50 percent.
Could this be "collateral damage" to the decision to devote all resources and attention to fighting the virus?
As this newspaper reported over the past five weeks, as pandemic restrictions eased across the UK, nursing homes remained locked down so families could not be with loved ones. This means that many residents have been effectively isolated for almost eight months. Hundreds of families have written to us, almost all of them with terrifying stories of how a husband, wife or parent slowly disappears and "gives up" – without human contact.
Amnesty International has received similar reports – and recognizes the devastating health effects of prolonged isolation, which is well documented in the medical literature. They tried to work with the government, NHS England and Public Health England on their report and requested information that had previously remained hidden.
This includes details of how and why decisions were made to limit nursing home residents' access to NHS services during the pandemic and to implement blanket "do not resuscitate" mandates.
It is also important that they asked for data to compare the death rates of elderly people in hospital with those in nursing homes.
This would give clearer pictures of how many – if they should have been treated – might have survived. However, at the time of going to press, the official bodies had not made any of this available.
The human rights group highlighted this "lack of transparency" and warned that the government was hindering accountability for decisions made and efforts to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.
On every occasion, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Minister of Health have claimed in every interview that the situation in nursing homes is improving – when the facts almost always indicate otherwise.
As recently as Thursday, Mr Hancock claimed in the House of Commons that the government's pandemic policy had resulted in home care providing better service.
Among the few printable responses on social media to the appearance of Mr. Hancock's Commons was the simple question, which, given Amnesty's shocking summary, seemed appropriate: "What planet is he on?"
A statement from the Ministry of Health and Welfare said the use of blankets to resuscitate orders was "unacceptable" and a review has been initiated.
The government has violated the human rights of vulnerable nursing home residents in its pandemic response, Amnesty International claims
The government's response to the coronavirus pandemic violated the basic human rights of vulnerable elderly people in care, a damn report from Amnesty International found.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said "a protective ring" had been thrown around the care sector at the start of the outbreak.
However, an investigation by the human rights organization found that the decision to protect the NHS led to the "inexplicable" move of refusing hospital treatment to elderly people in care who developed Covid-19.
Amnesty International has blown up Health Secretary Matt Hancock's handling of the nursing home crisis and accused him of violating the basic human rights of elderly people in care
Amnesty's report said residents died in distress without adequate medical care, even though local hospitals had "hundreds" of empty beds
Amnesty's report says that without adequate medical care, residents died in distress, despite the fact that local hospitals had "hundreds" of empty beds.
In one shocking episode, a nursing home manager who was looking for a hospital bed for a critically ill resident in March was told, "He's at the end of his life anyway, so we're not going to send an ambulance."
From March 2 to June 12, nursing homes recorded more than 28,000 deaths, with 18,562 or 40 percent attributed to Covid-19 – although a lack of testing means the number may be higher.
Continued restrictions that result in a ban or restriction on family visits have created further distress and also violated international law, says Amnesty, which calls for an independent public inquiry.
Lib Dem chairman Ed Davey said: "There are serious questions to be answered as to whether the decision has been taken at the top level of government to view tens of thousands of dependents as entirely dispensable."
(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) Gesundheit (t) Coronavirus