Tragic case of great-grandmother who died after contracting coronavirus in South Shields care home raised in Parliament

The heartbreaking case of a great-grandmother who died after contracting coronavirus in her care home has been raised in Parliament.

By Sarah Sinclair
Monday, 6th July 2020, 4:45 pm

Elizabeth Smurthwaite, 94, a resident of Cheviot Court Care Home in South Shields, passed away on Sunday, May 17 after a short battle with Covid-19.

The great-grandmother-of-nine became unwell on Wednesday, May 13 and was confirmed positive two days later, but not admitted to hospital.

Elizabeth’s story has now been raised in Parliament, as her MP Emma Lewell-Buck pressed the Prime Minister to take responsibility for the thousands of deaths which have occurred in care homes across the country during the pandemic.

Until April 15, Government policy meant that patients could be discharged into the community without being tested for coronavirus.

The Labour MP says care home staff, residents and their families feel ‘severely let down’.

Speaking in the Commons on June 24, Ms Lewell-Buck said: “My constituent Elizabeth Smurthwaite contracted coronavirus in her care home.

“This Government’s policy of discharging patients with coronavirus into homes has led to over 16,000 deaths. Sadly, Elizabeth has since passed away. Last week, the Health Secretary said that he accepted responsibility for these deaths in our care homes. Does the Prime Minister?”

Elizabeth Smurthwaite passed away after contracting coronavirus in her care home.

Elizabeth’s family hadn’t seen her since Cheviot Court went into lockdown in March.

“Her family were her life, she devoted herself to us and we couldn’t be with her to comfort her at the end,” said her granddaughter, Kerry Leask, 43.

“It’s devastating that such a colourful life has ended in this way.”

She added: “We have no fault at all with the care home, and I’m angry on behalf of the staff who have had to cope with losing so many residents.”

Elizabeth, pictured with two of her great-grandchildren, was 'devoted' to her family.

Speaking in the House of Commons on June 24, Boris Johnson said he “accepted responsibility” for “everything that has happened” throughout the crisis.

But added that the discharging of patients was done “according to clinical decisions”.

NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the NHS body that plans most local healthcare services in the borough, does not comment on individual cases, but in a statement said: “Our deepest sympathies go out to everyone who has lost a loved one to Covid-19. Sadly, it became clear in the early stages of the pandemic that for many very frail elderly people who became acutely unwell, hospital admission was likely to be a major disruption for them without actually improving their chances of recovery.

“GPs have worked incredibly hard in very difficult circumstances, and had conversations with care home residents and families about whether hospital admission would be the right thing for them if they became ill. In many cases a decision was made that, in such circumstances, being cared for in their own bed was a better option than admission to a busy hospital ward.

Elizabeth's family say they are angry that her life has ended this way.

“At no time was there a policy that people should not be admitted to hospital based on their age, where they lived, or their illnesses. However, for many very frail care home residents, a decision not to go to hospital with Covid-19 was often the right one.”

The Department of Health was unable to comment on the individual case.

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Elizabeth (right) with daughter Ann Leask.

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