Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Nicola Sturgeon attacked over care worker testing after virtual First Minister’s Questions

A quarter of Scotland's Covid-19 deaths have occurred in care homes, including a number of staff.
A quarter of Scotland's Covid-19 deaths have occurred in care homes, including a number of staff.

Nicola Sturgeon’s coronavirus testing regime has been attacked after new figures suggested fewer than 2% of the care workforce has been checked for the killer disease.

Opposition politicians and care home operators called for testing to be ramped up after the first minister indicated that tests had only been carried out on around 2,460 care staff, or their families, so far.

Labour leader Richard Leonard said it was “deeply concerning” that such a “small proportion” of social care staff, or family contacts, had been tested.

Scottish Labour claimed the number of tests represented just 1.72% of the 143,000 people employed in adult social care services in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon was challenged over her testing strategy during the second virtual First Minister’s Questions organised by Holyrood during the lockdown.

During the session, Ms Sturgeon announced a further 80 Scottish deaths overnight taking the running total of fatalities in the daily figures to 779.

There were 7,102 patients who had tested positive for the virus, a rise of 354. Hospital admissions had gone up by 51 to 1,799. The number of people being treated in intensive care had risen by just one.

This week separate data, which is being released weekly by the National Records for Scotland, revealed that one quarter of Scottish deaths had taken place in care homes.

Picking up on the care home deaths, Mr Leonard said testing levels had left people “afraid and angry”  and unable to understand why more had not been done.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard

Ms Sturgeon replied saying around 12,300 tests had been carried out on health and care workers, of which just under 20% had been on those in the social care sector, which includes care homes and carers looking after people in their own residences.

The first minister went on to reject claims that testing had been done on a “too little, too late” basis.

She said absence rates related to Covid-19 in the health service “have been falling”, which she attributed to tests.

At the end of the session, Labour pointed out that 20% of 12,300 meant that around 2,460 social care workers had been tested. Labour then took the most recent care Scottish Government data on care, which said there were 143,000 workers across the sector – of which 53,500 worked in care homes.

The 2,460 figure when expressed as a percentage of 143,000 workers came to 1.72%.

Mr Leonard said: “Staff absences have soared in the care sector, and families across Scotland are deeply worried about their relatives living and working in our care homes.

“It is deeply concerning that such a small proportion of social care staff have had tests extended to themselves or a family member. The First Minister must take urgent steps to redress this.

“I have repeatedly called for the number of social care workers tested to be regularly reported.”

We are not seeking to test absolutely everybody, because that would be pointless.”

Donald Macaskill of Scottish Care

Donald Macaskill, CEO of Scottish Care, agreed more testing needed to be done, but made the point that not all care workers necessarily needed to be tested.

“We are not seeking to test absolutely everybody, because that would be pointless. The test should only be for those who are self-isolating because either themselves or their families has been symptomatic. The testing of those is to get them back as quickly as possible,” Dr Macaskill said.

Even so, he called for the number of tests to be “significantly increased”.

Sturgeon rejects calls for testing of all care home admissions

Questioned by Willie Rennie of the Lib Dems, Ms Sturgeon resisted his calls for universal testing of all elderly people being moved into care homes,

She said testing was important, but argued an all-encompassing scheme could be counterproductive, because it would not detect the illness in people incubating the virus.

The first minister said an elderly person leaving hospital would be tested. But she pointed out that the test was only effective on a person displaying coronavirus symptoms. Someone without the symptoms could test negative, but still introduce the virus to the care home because they were incubating it.

The first minister said: “We mustn’t allow testing, given its limitations, to give us false assurances that somebody going into care home doesn’t have the virus when it may be that they are in the incubation period and it doesn’t show in a test.”

Testing not always appropriate

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “There is no clinical purpose or benefit to testing people unless they have symptoms and it is wholly incorrect to suggest otherwise – as tests cannot reliably detect infection prior to the onset of symptoms.

“There are 53,000 staff working in adult care homes and we absolutely understand this is a deeply concerning time for them, their families and the public – and that’s why our priority is to use testing to support the management of patients, for public health purposes, and to enable essential workers in health and social care to get back to work.

“Not everyone who is off work for a Covid-19 related reason can return to work if a test happens. Some people are off work because of serious underlying health conditions, others with caring responsibilities or some are feeling too unwell to work.

“Testing is only appropriate for essential workers who are having to stay off work to comply with our isolation guidance, but otherwise able to work.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from the Press and Journal Scottish politics team

More from the Press and Journal