Almost 100 patients were discharged into care homes from Swindon hospital at the height of the coronavirus pandemic without first being tested for the virus.

Figures obtained by the Adver under Freedom of Information rules show that 95 patients were packed off to care homes between March 1 and August 1 without first being tested for coronavirus. The majority if not all of these patients are understood to have been discharged in March and April.

Great Western Hospital said it was following national guidance. That advice changed at the end of April, after which everyone being discharged from hospital to care homes was tested for Covid, regardless of whether or not they were showing symptoms.

Since then, some patients may not have been tested for the virus if doctors consider it unsafe – or the patient has refused to be tested.


A grieving son who lost his parents, who were from Highworth, days apart in April – including his father to coronavirus – reacted with surprise to the figures.

His mother was discharged from GWH to Orchid Care Home without a coronavirus test and died a number of weeks later, although not from Covid.

The man, who spoke out on condition of anonymity, told the Adver: “All they were worried about was the hospitals getting overwhelmed. They weren’t thinking about what would happen if they moved all these people out to homes.”

“It was almost like watching a train crash happening. There was no social distancing or PPE in the homes. Everyone was so focused on protecting the NHS, they completely disregarded the care homes.”

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Orchid Care Home Picture: DAVE COX

Hospital statement

A spokesman for GWH said the hospital had always followed national guidance from Public Health England: “This means we focused on testing patients showing symptoms of Covid-19, until testing was introduced for all patients being discharged to care homes from April 24.

“On occasions testing may not take place if it is considered unsafe for the patient or if the patient has refused testing.

“We work closely with local care homes to ensure a safe level of care can be provided to support the patient’s recovery after discharge. Patients who test positive for Covid-19 are only considered for discharge if they no longer need hospital care, and after a discussion with the care home about the patient’s recovery and individual care needs. The discussion will also include advice on appropriate isolation and infection prevention and control measures to be arranged by the care home, so they can keep the patient safe during recovery.

“From April 27, we introduced testing for all patients on admission to hospital.”


Official statistics show care home deaths locally spiked in mid-April, with 19 deaths from coronavirus and 33 from all causes in the week beginning Monday, April 13. That has since dropped, with the last Swindon care home coronavirus death occurring in late June, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics.

Earlier this month, Swindon Borough Council adult services director Sue Wald admitted that some action should have been taken earlier.

She told a council scrutiny meeting that the borough had set up a specialist care home cell to help advise homes on how to deal with the disease.

But she admitted: “In hindsight, looking at lessons learned, we should have done that earlier but we were following the national guidance at the time.”

Ms Wald said the council-run home Fessey House had continued taking patients from GWH but had managed to keep the virus out. Its experience was being shared with other homes.