Families ‘have right’ to take legal action over care home moves says Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has said she could not stand in the way of families seeking legal redress in connection to patients being moved from hospitals into care homes with a positive Covid-19 test.

The First Minister said it would be “completely inappropriate” for her to talk about any potential legal action but admitted that people “have a right to pursue” any legal rights or redress they feel entitled to.

Her comments came after Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said his party would support families exploring legal action againts those involved in the transfer of Covid-positive patients.

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Mr Leonard said people who had “knowingly decided” to send such patients into care homes, and those who had transferred people into homes when they knew coronavirus was present, “must face justice, if necessary in a court of law”.

He was unclear over who might face legal action in Scotland but said cases were being raised internationally against care providers, and state and federal governments.

It emerged last weekend in an investigation by The Sunday Post that at least 37 potentially infectious people in Ayrshire hospitals who had tested positive for the virus were still sent to care homes. Mr Leonard said: “We know that families are already considering bringing about prosecutions. And we will be on the side of those families in their pursuit of justice.”

Asked if this opened up the prospect of “doctors and NHS managers being hauled before the courts on criminal charges”, Mr Leonard said there was already evidence of families in Scotland preparing to take legal action “because of the treatment of their elderly relatives in care homes”.

He said: “The trail in some cases may rest at the level of the care home, in other cases it may rest at a higher level.

“Our continued concern has been the guidance that was issued in the name of the Scottish Government, which dictated the policies and practices followed out in the field.

“Internationally there are examples of class actions being entered which have led to variously a number of respondents’ names, whether that be providers, whether that be state governments, whether that be federal governments.

“I would imagine we are looking at potentially the same kind of course being pursued by people in Scotland.”

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Ms Sturgeon reiterated the Scottish Government’s commitment to hold an inquiry into its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic with a focus on care homes.

She said: “It is completely inappropriate for me to talk about legal action that anybody may take either civil or criminal.

People of course have a right to pursue any legal rights they think they have and to pursue any legal redress that they think they have and as a general principle I think that is one everybody adheres to.

“It is very easy for people who have not had to take these decisions and do have the benefit of hindsight that those of us taking the decisions didn’t have when we took those decisions to say what should have happened.”

Scotland recorded 71 positive tests in the past 24 hours to yesterday – the country’s second highest number of coronavirus cases since since 23 May.

She said 68 cases have been identified in a cluster in Coupar Angus linked to the 2 Sisters poultry factory – 59 employees of the plant and nine of their contacts. Two of the contacts also have a link to two other factories in Tayside.

NHS Tayside announced on Thursday that anyone living in a household with a factory worker from the 2 Sisters site should self isolate at home.

Ms Sturgeon said the decision was made as part of “targeted” measures designed to reduce the likelihood of the outbreak establishing community transmission.



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