Comments from Jack Baumgardt, Associate in Ashfords’ Business Risk and Regulation Team
News of the first spate of legal actions by bereaved families against care homes has been long anticipated. The Covid-19 Pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges, from staffing to PPE, testing, reporting and perceived lack of Government support. The vulnerability of older persons and the anxiety caused by restrictions on visits have made for a highly-charged situation. As with all major crises, the focus is already turning to the exercise of working out where things have gone wrong. This has begun through private legal challenges and the trickle seems very likely to become a flood. Operators should be acting now to preserve evidence of their controls; key decision-making processes and the specifics of the challenges they have faced.
As regulators and Coroners become bound up in the process, this will inevitably become a broader, political issue. It seems likely that Public Inquiries of the kind seen following the Grenfell disaster must be looming for the Care sector. The question is if the Government will allow the inevitable flood of legal actions to continue or if they will attempt to restrict or consolidate them. While the actions of individual care providers are likely to come under the spotlight, so are the actions of the regulators at the CQC and HSE. We predict that there will be major changes in the way safety is regulated in the care sector as a result, possibly including a change in the scope of inspections and allocation of technical personnel with the regulators.