The family of an elderly man who contracted the coronavirus and died after being moved from hospital to a care home where others had already fallen victim to Covid are to sue Scottish Government ministers.
In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, lawyers acting for the family of Rodger Laing say Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon could be called to explain why he was put at risk.
Mr Laing’s family had taken out a guardianship order, but say this was ignored when health chiefs decided to move him. However, they believe ministers, not doctors, were responsible for driving the bed-clearance policy which led to his discharge.
Their lawyer, Patrick McGuire, senior partner at Thompsons law firm, said: “As emergency measures were bought in during the pandemic, the Scottish Government and its ministers took control from health authorities, and they will become respondents in any legal action which takes place.
“Because of that, both the first minister, the health secretary and their advisers will need to answer questions and even give evidence as required about the decisions they took and the orders they gave during that time.
“We will be looking at whether the family’s Power of Attorney was breached, along with all other concerning aspects of this tragic case.”
Mr Laing, 80, a former gamekeeper and car salesman, died 22 days after he was moved from a dementia ward at Midlothian Community Hospital in Bonnyrigg to Drummond Grange care home in Lasswade.
His son Rodney, 49, said: “We went through the legal process of taking out a Power of Attorney in 2017 to ensure dad’s health and welfare were legally protected.
“It gave us the legal right to decide what treatment he got and where he was cared for, but we believe that was completely overruled and dad was moved, against our wishes, into a care home where, unbeknown to us, people had already died from Covid-19.
“We’d been told we needed to consider dad being moved at the end of last year, but by February a suitable place still hadn’t been found. With lockdown under way, we believed things had been put on the back burner but we got a call at the beginning of May saying they wanted to move him into Drummond Grange.”
Mr Laing’s daughter Gail Young, 53, said: “The conversations got heated because we didn’t want dad moved because it wasn’t safe. I was told dad was being moved and it was out of her hands.
“I hung up the phone in tears of anger and frustration.”
Mr Laing, who gave a negative Covid-19 test before leaving hospital, died on May 27, two days after testing positive.
The family’s MSP, Miles Briggs, said: “Rodger’s family are one of a number who are growing increasingly angry at the way their elderly loved ones have been treated and the lack of answers from the government.” Drummond Grange confirmed there had been several Covid-19 deaths by the time Mr Laing was admitted.
A spokesman said: “The home reported all Covid-19 information to the relevant authorities and made any enquirers aware of this, including social work and hospital discharge teams who were looking to discharge patients into care homes at the time.”
NHS Lothian and Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership said Mr Laing had not been discharged simply to free up a bed but because he was medically fit to be discharged, and had been for some time.
Morag Barrow, director of Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “It was agreed in December 2019 that Mr Laing would move into a more appropriate care setting. A second ‘moving-on meeting’ was held in February with Mr Laing and his sister to answer some of the outstanding questions for his family and decide on a suitable placement.
“Over the next few weeks, the family visited several care homes and discussed each of the visits and the outcomes with ward staff, before Drummond Grange Care Home was identified.
“He was accepted on to their waiting list and the family accepted the place when one became available in May.”
But Mr Laing’s family insisted they changed their mind once lockdown was imposed, and said when they received a phone call telling them he was to be moved, they objected because they believed it was “far too dangerous”.
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