A woman whose father died from COVID in a care home has said government claims a "protective ring" had been thrown around residents at the beginning of the pandemic were "a lie".
Dr Cathy Gardner said her father Michael Gibson died at the age of 88 at a care home in Bicester in April 2020 and took legal action against Health Secretary Sajid Javid, NHS England and Public Health England.
High Court judges ruled government policies on discharging patients from hospital to care homes at the outset of the pandemic were "unlawful" because they failed to take into account the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission of COVID.
Dr Gardner told Sky News she "realised something was badly wrong" and wanted to "hold the government to account" because they had "not protected my father" – and strongly criticised claims made by the then health secretary, Matt Hancock.
She said: "They haven’t protected my father and other residents in care homes and I wanted to hold the government to account.
"When secretary of state Matt Hancock said that he’d thrown a protective ring around care homes right from the start – I heard him say that on television and my chin nearly hit the floor because all of us who were involved in any way with care homes at the start of the pandemic knew that was absolutely not true.
"It was a lie. It was a lie then and it is a lie now.
"They didn’t do anything to protect my father, there was no help given to care homes and the death toll in those first few weeks of the pandemic was catastrophic.
"I think they never imagined they were going to be found out. You only have to look at the parties (in Downing Street) to realise they never think they’re going to be found out."
‘We don’t believe they did anything’
She added: "I think at the time Matt Hancock made that statement about the protective ring, the death toll in care homes was already horrendous.
"I think he was under attack and he felt that he needed to say that they’d done this even though blatantly they hadn’t to those of us who were there at the time and knew.
"They should have taken steps to protect the most vulnerable people. Measures should have been put in place. We don’t believe they did anything.
"There’s no evidence ever been provided that they did anything. Matt Hancock unfortunately made a statement which is untrue."
Dr Gardner said she holds "many parts of the government responsible" and believes the "focus" at the time was "very much on the NHS".
She added: "I was really shocked when it was suggested to me that my father had COVID.
‘I never blamed the care home’
"He got ill in March 2020, it was so early. The idea that he caught COVID in his care home just seemed almost impossible to me at the time.
"I never blamed the care home, never – and I don’t blame myself – I trusted that he would be safe in the care home and they did their absolute best.
"But the government had the responsibility and they had the legal duty."
Dr Gardner’s High Court action was taken with Fay Harris, whose father Donald died – and they had asked two judges to make declarations that unlawful decisions were made.
Lawyers for Mr Javid, Public Health England and NHS England wanted the women’s claim dismissed.
A government spokeswoman had said in a statement outside court during the hearing that "we worked tirelessly to protect the public from the threat to life and health posed by the pandemic and specifically sought to safeguard care homes and their residents".
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