A heartbroken widow who lost her partner in a nursing home during the pandemic is forced to return to work as the cost of living soars

A grieving woman who only saw her partner dying in her care home for an hour a day throughout the pandemic says she was forced back to work as the cost of living soared .

Elizabeth Garnett, who has her own health issues, lost her partner, Peter Sproson, 75, in January 2021 after being admitted to a care home in Garstang in March 2020. This followed a terminal diagnosis in February 2020 .

The 53-year-old’s beloved partner, who was admitted to Royal Preston Hospital in December 2019, suffered multiple brain bleeds due to Parkinson’s disease. He was later returned to Cornmill Nursing Home in Garstang.

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Elizabeth, who currently receives Universal Credit and other benefits, had been with Peter for 33 years. She said the ‘brilliant’ care home had very strict rules and never had a Covid case as a result, while Peter, a former car dealer, was placed in end-of-life care. But that meant she had to wear a mask when she only visited him for an hour a day.

She had been his full-time carer until he was taken into care. Speaking of her grief and reaction to a High Court ruling last week which found the government’s policies of sending untested hospital patients back to nursing homes to be ‘unlawful’, she said ‘nothing’ would change the past.

Fighting back tears, Elizabeth, who now works in the hospitality industry, said: ‘I’m just having a hard time putting it into words. There is nothing and no action that can be done that can make up for what has been lost over the past two years. I was lucky – Peter was in a very good nursing home where they were too strict, thank God, but there were plenty of other nursing and care homes that were accepting patients and it was killing so many. All of this could have been avoided, as it still is today.

Elizabeth Garnett, of Barton

“A lot of people were way worse off than me and that was hard enough for me; I dread to think what it was like for people who couldn’t be with their loved ones. A friend’s mother was in a care home and died of Covid and no matter what any of us say it won’t make up for it.

Elizabeth, from Barton, who had been Peter’s full-time carer before entering the care home, was then forced into a job to survive in June last year. But she contracted Covid in March this year and then developed an irregular heartbeat which forced her to take a week of sick leave – and only got two days of statutory sick leave due to the end of the first day of Covid Statutory Sick Pay.

The triple-vaccinated hospitality worker began to suffer from an irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath which affected her heart and kidney function and was taken to Royal Preston Hospital by ambulance twice within the same 24 hours. But her plight worsened, as she was only entitled to statutory sick pay of £25 for two days.

She told LancsLive: ‘I had Covid and ended up in hospital with it, it affected my heart and kidney function. I am still short of breath and had a 24 hour heart monitor removed this afternoon; I had Covid but am still suffering from issues now.

“While the pandemic was going on, people were getting paid if they got sick with Covid, and that had just stopped, so I just missed paying Covid sick, due to bad luck and timing. There’s still a lot of Covid around, and they’ve removed all that help.

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“I don’t hear of as many people coming down from it as when I had Covid it was very bad at that but they are cutting out all the help they have given people .” And she thinks the cost of living crisis could have an effect, due to factors like the end of mandatory mask-wearing and the fact that the majority of people now have to pay for Covid tests.

She added: “I think people were thinking, ‘I’m not going to test if there’s no help. I was triple vaccinated for Covid and it affected me, so for someone vulnerable who catches it, it must be worse; there are people who have to choose and who think: “Do I put on the heating or do I eat, so how am I going to be able to afford tests?

“They took away that Covid aid in terms of sick pay and then made testing chargeable, when I think testing should still be available for those who need it. I know the weather is getting warmer, and we have to be able to live with it, and I understand there’s not a bottomless money pit, but Covid is dying and flaring up again, and they have to do something , like there’s no help, people aren’t going to get tested, and that’s why it’s spreading, because people can’t afford the tests.

“When I had Covid I could have gone out and carried on as normal – I didn’t and stayed because I didn’t want to pass it on to anyone else. Vulnerable people must be protected in one way or another.

Highlighting how much her life has changed since losing her partner, she said: ‘My whole life is different than it was, and there must be so many people in my position who have had to go back to work. Regardless of what happened, to survive I have to work, and I’ve recently had health issues on top of that, which only makes it worse.

An NHS spokesperson said of last week’s decision on policing in March and early April 2020: “We welcome the court’s dismissal of all claims against the NHS.”

The spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We recognize the pressures on the cost of living and are doing what we can to help, including spending £22billion over the next financial year to support the people.

“It is up to employers to determine their sick pay policies and many employers choose to pay more than the minimum level of statutory sick pay. But statutory Sick Pay should not be seen in isolation, government support through the social protection system, including Universal Credit, is also available to low-income people who need extra financial help when ‘they are ill or unable to work for long periods of time, and for anyone who is disabled or has a long-term health condition, including Long Covid, there is a strong financial safety net.

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