The cruelty of this coronavirus pandemic has touched every corner of society, but care homes have been the scene of more heartache and suffering than almost anywhere else.
In Scotland alone, more than 3,300 of our most fragile friends and family members found themselves defenceless and on the frontline of a fight few could have fully comprehended.
Older people in these facilities, some of whom would have remembered the last world war we faced, often had to live out their final days away from loved ones who were locked out.
Many of these shattered relatives will no doubt have been unhappy with the way care home operators, and others, responded to the pandemic, particularly in the early days.
Some will have been told that the most appropriate way to pursue such a complaint would be to raise it with the official regulator for the sector, the Care Inspectorate. It will only compound their frustration to learn now that the vast majority of such concerns, almost 95%, were not fully investigated last year.
An internal conversation at the Care Inspectorate will not suffice
Questions will also rightly be raised about whether negligence and failure have been allowed to fester as result of a decision to simply note a complaint for “intelligence” purposes, as many were.
Of course, the Care Inspectorate had to think very carefully before sending inspectors into these facilities last year, amid a real risk that they could bring the virus with them. But more than 2,000 complaints were not investigated as a result of this concern.
We cannot risk repeating past mistakes
We do not know for certain whether the policy saved lives, by preventing the spread of Covid-19, or perhaps caused further agony in many cases by overlooking malpractice. We do not know, but we must try to find out, otherwise we risk making the same mistakes again.
An internal conversation at the Care Inspectorate will not suffice.
The issue must be considered as part of the ongoing discussions about the future model of social care in Scotland, as well as the wider inquiry into the government’s pandemic response, which should be progressed sooner rather than later.
The Voice of the North is The Press & Journal’s editorial stance on what we think is the most important story of the day