Lack of testing for COVID-19 means care homes unwilling to accept recently discharged hospital patients

31 Mar 2020

Elderly claimants can be in hospital for long periods of time; often for relatively minor reasons.    However, there can be quite a long delay in discharging them from hospital because their care needs have changed – if they had been living at home previously they might now need residential care, or an increased care package.  Often the claimants may be medically ready for discharge but stuck in hospital “bed blocking”.  Such scenarios can be costly for defendants and their insurers.

If the claimant was in hospital as a result of an accident (potentially caused by a care home’s negligence) then a longer stay in hospital could mean increased NHS charges that will be repayable by the defendant/its insurers if damages are paid.  Being in hospital for a long period can impact upon a person’s physical health, making the situation more complex – the  patient/claimant can pick up hospital acquired infections like MRSA.  In addition, being in hospital for a prolonged period impacts upon a person’s mental wellbeing.  A decline in health due to a prolonged hospital stay, with the hospital stay having been originally caused by a defendant’s negligence often forms part of the claimant’s claim on the grounds that the person was only in hospital due to the defendant’s negligence.

The Guardian has highlighted that some care homes are refusing to take residents that have been discharged from hospital without confirmation they do not have COVID-19.  Testing for the virus is limited in the general population and not yet seen as a priority for those discharging to a care home.

On the one hand the NHS must free up as many beds as possible, but on the other, it’s understandable that care home providers will be reluctant to allow the claimant back. They could introduce COVID-19 to a care home with other vulnerable elderly residents at risk of contracting the virus not to mention staff.  It remains to be seen what the long term impact of this particular issue will be and how it will play out in future claims.

Written by Jennifer Johnston at BLM

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Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to customers of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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