SNP under pressure to deliver delayed report after COVID patients were sent to care homes

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The Scottish Government had confirmed 1,431 untested patients were moved to care homes between March 1 and April 21 before testing of new care home admissions became mandatory. But it was also revealed at least 37 potentially infectious people in hospitals who tested positive for COVID-19 were still discharged into care homes.

Now, a report by Public Health Scotland commissioned by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman which includes statistics and analysis on the number of patients who were sent to a care home after testing positive for COVID-19 has not been released as promised by the end of September.

It comes after figures showed there were almost 2,000 deaths in Scottish care homes where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Ms Freeman set out a plan in Parliament after the figures were released and earlier said in Holyrood: “I have today asked Public Health Scotland to work with boards to produce validated statistics and analysis on the number of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and were subsequently admitted to a care home.

“That includes examining how many were assessed as being discharged when they were considered to be infectious, and the rationales that were in place for such a discharge, for example in the case of palliative care concerns.”

The Health Secretary was also questioned by MSPs over claims that the Scottish Government were regularly missing its testing target by around 17,000 care home staff each week.

However, Ms Freeman defended the comments saying that testing all care home staff was “unrealistic” stressing that “staff may be on annual leave, sick leave.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross warned the SNP led Scottish Government were not giving the scandal in “our care homes the attention it deserves.”

He added: “They won’t own up to what went wrong and now they won’t publish key information on time.

“They repeatedly promised that this report would be published by the end of September but we’re now looking at even more delays.

“This is an outrage and an insult to all those grieving families who will be waiting another month for answers.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, added: “This further delay lends further support for a quick independent inquiry into the first six months of the pandemic so we can quickly learn the lessons.

“No matter how accurate the claims of genuine problems with the data, people will doubt the intentions of a government that clearly made mistakes with the transfer of COVID positive people into care homes.”

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Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, added: “This is yet another example of the SNP dodging accountability on the scandal that has happened in our care homes.

“Almost half of the people who have died from this terrible virus were in care homes and the transmission of the illness was undoubtedly exacerbated by the transfer of patients from hospital.

“Their families deserve to know what happened and this report cannot be kicked into the long grass.

“As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase we need confidence that the Scottish Government have learned the lessons from mistakes made at the start of the pandemic but that is not possible if the Scottish Government is not transparent.”

In response to the concerns, Public Health Scotland blamed the delay on data quality issues.

A statement on their website said: “On 30 September, Public Health Scotland was due to release a publication on Discharges from NHS hospitals to care homes between 1 March and 31 May 2020.

“However, whilst undertaking the analyses PHS identified a number of data quality issues that need resolving.

“PHS has, therefore, made the decision to delay this publication until the 28 October to allow further data quality assurance work to be undertaken, in collaboration with NHS Boards.

“This work links together several different datasets for the first time and we need to incorporate, where possible and appropriate, feedback from NHS Boards to ensure accuracy.

“Our plans for the publication on the 28 October are to have two complementary reports: one reporting on the statistics; and the other providing the wider narrative to contextualise the statistics.

“PHS are collaborating with clinical experts from University of Glasgow and University of Edinburgh. PHS are collaborating with clinical experts from University of Glasgow and University of Edinburgh.”

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