The Scottish Government is facing a demand for a full public inquiry into its handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Scotland’s care homes, following the release of new figures.
More than 60% of care homes in Scotland have reported cases of suspected Covid-19 to NHS Scotland, with Fife recording the highest rate, at 68%.
The Scottish Government released on Thursday latest figures showing 56% of care homes in Tayside had reported the virus, 30% in the Western Isles, 59% in Highland, 60% in Shetland and 54% in Grampian.
Raised at Holyrood
The issue was raised at Holyrood on Thursday, with Scottish Conservative MSP Tom Mason asking the Scottish Government for figures.
Mr Mason also asked Health Secretary Jeane Freeman if response teams from NHS boards being sent to care homes across Scotland were being tested for the virus.
He said: “NHS Grampian is one of many health boards that has been supporting care homes with community response teams, so I have a few questions about their procedures.
“Firstly, how many have been deployed to help alleviate pressures on care homes; have they been given access to routine testing in the same way as care home staff, and will the Scottish Government commit to national parity of testing between care home staff and these response teams, as well as expanding provision to all who provide care in our communities?”
Advice still to come
In response, Ms Freeman said: “We are currently waiting for clinical and scientific advice that I will receive from the chief medical officer and his scientific advisory group, and from the chief nursing officer, on the use of testing in healthcare settings for healthcare staff in order to prevent the introduction of the virus in those circumstances and whether that should be blanket testing or focused on particular settings for particular reasons.
“We should bear it in mind that we will be testing people who do not have symptoms, and negative tests need to be repeated at least every seven days.
“Once I have that advice and have taken a decision on it, I will make sure that members are made aware of it.”
Following the response to his question, Mr Mason said: “The figures are extremely concerning relating to the percentage of care homes in Grampian which have reported at least one case of Covid-19.
“I’m horrified by the figures, which show the true extent of the problem in our care homes across the north-east.
“The SNP Government has allowed elderly patients to return to care homes from hospital without a coronavirus test and it’s clear this has happened in Grampian.
“Thousands of care home residents, workers and their families are going untested, which is why we’re seeing such a crisis in these facilities across the region.
“The number of care home deaths across Grampian is shocking and devastating and my sympathies go to all of the families and staff affected by these tragedies.
“The Scottish Government’s handling of care home patients and staff is completely unacceptable at a time where they simply can’t be abandoned.”
‘Full public inquiry must be held’
Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Liz Smith said: “The SNP government’s handling of coronavirus in care homes is a national disgrace. Elderly patients were sent from hospital into care without any testing.
“Nicola Sturgeon decided to let virus carriers mix with vulnerable people. We now see the true scale of the problem that has created in Fife’s homes.
“A full public inquiry must be held to determine the scale of the SNP’s ineptitude.”