ALMOST half of care home deaths in Oxfordshire since April have been due to coronavirus, new figures reveal.

It comes as a grieving daughter yesterday launched legal action against the government over its care home policy during the pandemic, which she claims made them a ‘death trap’.

Data from the Office for National Statistics of all care home deaths registered between April 10 and June 5 in the county, show 220 of 470 (46.8 per cent) were Covid-related.

This is higher than the average for England of 38.3 per cent for the same period.

Despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock's insistence that a 'protective ring' was placed around care homes there has been criticism that the moving of agency staff between sites, a lack of PPE and the discharging of patients from hospital into care homes without testing all helped spread the virus.

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A report from the National Audit Office, released this week, found up to 25,000 hospital patients in England were discharged between March 17 and April 15 without being tested.

Dr Cathy Gardner’s father, Michael Gibson, a retired superintendent of births, marriages and deaths, died on April 3 from suspected Covid-19. The 88-year-old had been a resident of Cherwood House Care Centre, near Bicester.

Oxford Mail:

Dr Cathy Gardner with her father

In an online appeal to raise the funds needed to launch legal action , she said: “My father was one of the thousands who died in a care home during this pandemic. I am launching this action to hold the government to account for not protecting elderly people in care homes.”

The original government advice about the discharge of patients to care homes was negative tests were not required. The policy was changed on April 15 to testing all residents before admission.

Dr Gardner said staff told her a Covid-positive patient was discharged back to the home in mid-March.

Cherwood House told Sky News last month it was not given any guarantees the patient wasn’t still infectious, and it was ‘one of several possibilities’ which could have caused Mr Gibson’s death.

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In her appeal for funding, which has raised more than £14,000, she called care homes a 'death trap' due to the discharge policy as it was 'exposing vulnerable people to a disease that could kill them' adding: "Their safe place became a dangerous place."

Brenda Lipson, whose 94-year-old mother died from coronavirus last week after catching it at her Oxford care home, praised care staff and the NHS but said: “As a family we feel very strongly that mum’s death should stand as a witness to the suffering caused by the lack of support and attention given to care homes in the early phases of the pandemic."

John Paine, secretary for the National Pensioners Convention, Oxfordshire, said: “Every death through coronavirus is a tragedy for the family concerned. The fact that the NHS pushed people from hospital into care homes without testing them and the official figures been given is 25,000 discharged between March 17 and April 15 has shown consistently in the higher figures of deaths in care homes from that date.”

The Department for Health and Social Care has said it could not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

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