Covid care home discharge policy ruled unlawful, e-scooter incidents rise and NHS trust warned after 115 unexpected deaths – this week’s Friday Five
Covid care home discharge policy was unlawful, says court
The government’s policy towards care homes in England at the start of the Covid pandemic has been ruled illegal, in a significant blow to ministers’ claim to have thrown a “protective ring” around the vulnerable residents. The high court said the policy not to isolate people discharged from hospitals to care homes in the first weeks of the pandemic in spring 2020 without testing was “irrational”.
Dr Cathy Gardner, one of two grieving daughters who brought the case after their fathers died from Covid in care homes in April and May 2020, called on Boris Johnson to resign after the landmark ruling, saying the illegal care homes policy was just one of several failures in the management of the pandemic. She also called on the former health secretary Matt Hancock to consider whether he misled parliament over protection of care homes and described his “protective ring” claim as “a despicable lie of which he ought to be ashamed and for which he ought to apologise”.
Hancock had said that “right from the start we have tried to throw a protective ring around our care homes”, but government guidance issued on 2 April 2020 as ministers rushed to free up 25,000 hospital beds amid fears the NHS could be overwhelmed confirmed that “negative tests are not required prior to transfers/admissions into the care home”.
The number of ambulances called to deal with e-scooter accidents nearly doubled between 2020 and 2021. The emergency services attended 713 accidents in 2021, compared with 392 in 2020, although it is not known how many more scooters were on the road.
NHS Ambulance Trust data also showed a 40% rise in e-scooter riders being taken to A&E in the same period. The government is considering making e-scooters legal for road use in England next month, after trials across the UK. The figures cover ambulance callouts for seven trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 95% of the injuries were to riders, with the other 5% to pedestrians.
The Major Trauma Group, which obtained ambulance data from the NHS, wants the government to improve safety standards if it is to go ahead with legalising e-scooters.The group’s chairman, Trevor Sterling, said: “It is essential that we address the serious safety concerns arising from e-scooter trials, for the safety of all road users.”
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust warned by CQC over failures
More than 100 patients died unexpectedly in a two-year period at England’s worst-performing mental health trust, inspectors say. Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has been warned by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that it must improve. Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis has called on the government to take direct control of NSFT with immediate effect.
NSFT chief executive officer Stuart Richardson said he was “deeply sorry”. Following the latest inspection, the trust was downgraded from “requires improvement” to “inadequate” and remains the only mental health trust within the NHS’s improvement regime for not meeting standards. Mr Lewis cites claims from mental health campaigners that there could have been as many “1,000 avoidable mental illness-related deaths” at the trust over the years – a figure the trust says it does not recognise.
In his letter to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Mr Lewis, a Labour MP, said: “The inadequate delivery of mental health services puts lives and wellbeing at risk. Given this, it is even more imperative that the Government steps in to take over failing trusts, like NSFT.”
Prince Harry criticises British attitudes towards mental health
The Duke of Sussex has criticised the British reluctance to talk about needing counselling, instead praising California’s “I’ll get my therapist to call your therapist” mentality. The Duke, speaking on a podcast about mental health, said the cultural differences between the UK and US were “immense”, as he urged the public to get on the “front foot” to prevent burnout.
In the same episode, the Duke disclosed how he became convinced of the importance of mental health after visiting a military barracks in London where a soldier was “physically shaking” and “visibly suffering” as a result of PTSD. He went on to argue that PTSD should be renamed to swap “disorder” for “injury”, allowing people to imagine recovering from it more easily rather than feeling “screwed for the rest of their life”.
He said “99.9 per cent of people on planet Earth are suffering from some form of loss, trauma, or grief”, he warned the body “doesn’t forget” emotional damage of childhood and argued: “The more we understand it, the more we understand each other.”
A clinical trial which has been testing an illegal drug, psilocybin, has been hailed by scientists as a major step towards a revolution in the treatment of depression. Steve, a participant in the trial, described how it felt to have his brain reintegrated by psychedelic drugs.
“I had the full-blown mystical revelatory experience – the big psychedelic multi-coloured light and sound show…With the first dose, I felt joy like I’ve never experienced – and more like myself than I’ve ever felt. The drug gives us part of a healing process. It exposes you to different possibilities – another way of being… But I would not change the experience for anything – it was wonderful – and I don’t expect ever to experience anything like it again.”