Stevenage and Watford hospitals discharged 135 patients into care homes without testing for COVID-19

PUBLISHED: 08:00 27 June 2020

It has emerged that, between March 19 and April 15, 135 patients were discharged from Stevenage's Lister Hospital and Watford General Hospital into care homes without first being tested for COVID-19. Picture: Pexels

It has emerged that, between March 19 and April 15, 135 patients were discharged from Stevenage's Lister Hospital and Watford General Hospital into care homes without first being tested for COVID-19. Picture: Pexels

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It has emerged that more than 130 patients were discharged from two Hertfordshire hospitals into care homes without first being tested for COVID-19.

Between March 19 and April 15, 181 people were discharged from Stevenage’s Lister Hospital and Watford General into care homes to create space ahead of an expected surge in COVID-19 cases, a meeting of the Herts Health and Wellbeing Board heard on Wednesday.

Only 46 of these patients were tested for coronavirus before being discharged, with half testing positive.

The remaining 135 patients, who had no symptoms, were discharged into care homes without being tested.

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The East and North Herts NHS Trust and West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, which run Lister and Watford General respectively, said they were following national guidelines, which have since changed. A spokesman said: “The decision to discharge patients into care homes is always taken in consultation with health and care partners in line with national guidance.

“On March 19 national guidance on hospital discharges was published that set out clear instructions to deliver the necessary hospital capacity to support the anticipated surge in COVID-19 admissions. The guidance was clear that only those patients presenting symptoms of COVID-19 required a test prior to discharge.

“On April 15 this national guidance changed – with Herts health care providers all adopting the position that no patients were to be discharged into care homes without being tested for COVID-19 and a result known, so infection prevention and control measures could be taken by the home receiving the patient.”

Wednesday’s board meeting heard 521 COVID-19 deaths had so far been self-reported by care homes in Herts, and the county’s Liberal Democrat group has called for an independent inquiry into these outbreaks.

Group leader Stephen Giles-Medhurst said: “It’s 500 deaths too many. We need to know if this number of deaths and suffering could have been avoided and how. Were all the actions needed to minimise them taken?”

County councillor Ron Tindall added: “There’s growing evidence our care workers were left trying to cope with patients discharged from hospital. We need an independent inquiry to understand why so many people have died.”


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