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by Louise Wilson
28 October 2020
Over 100 COVID-positive patients transferred to care homes

Andrew Milligan/PA Wire/PA Images

Over 100 COVID-positive patients transferred to care homes

New figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS) reveal 78 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 in hospital were discharged to a care home between 1 March and 21 April.

In addition, 45 people were discharged after a positive test between 22 April and 31 May.

However, analysis of the figures found hospital discharge was not statistically significant to the risk of an outbreak at the care home.

Care home size had the strongest association with outbreaks of coronavirus.

Almost half of Scotland’s coronavirus deaths have been in care homes and nearly a third of all care homes experienced an outbreak between 1 March and 21 June.

Speaking at the lunchtime briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We have to continue to understand them [the outbreaks] better. We have to continue to understand the factors that drive them.

“Just because we have a finding here that one particular factor didn’t drive them, it doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do to better understand what did and to make sure we are taking all of the right protective action.

“We’ve already done some of that with the change in approach to testing. There is a wealth of work done around protection, prevention control in care homes, and we continue to do that.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman commissioned the PHS report in August, which was originally due to be published on 30 September but was delayed for “data quality assurance” purposes.

It found the majority of the 3,599 people discharged from hospital to a care home between 1 March and 21 April were not tested – in line with clinical guidance at the time. Of the 650 who were tested, 78 received a positive result.

After the clinical advice changed, the majority (93 per cent) of people discharged from hospital to a care home were tested between 22 April to 31 May. Of these, 278 people tested positive – but 233 went on to record a negative test result prior to discharge.

Scottish Conservatives health spokesperson Donald Cameron MSP said: “Today’s overdue report reveals a scandalous dereliction in the provision of public health to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“To see people’s worst fears confirmed by these statistics only adds to the need for full and frank disclosure from the SNP.”

Meanwhile Scottish Labour is calling for a public inquiry into care home deaths. Monica Lennon MSP said: “The combination of knowingly transferring the virus into care homes and not bothering to test hundreds of other patients before moving them, is unfathomable.”

Freeman is to make a statement to parliament next week on winter preparedness for social care, which will also cover efforts to mitigate the size of care homes as a factor in outbreak risk.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “It’s essential that lessons are urgently learned from spring, to minimise a repeat of this entirely unacceptable situation this winter. The recent outbreaks at care homes in Edinburgh and West Lothian leave me concerned that those lessons have not yet been fully learned.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie told BBC Scotland the government “had an opportunity not to add to the problems of care homes” by not allowing COVID positive patients to be discharged.

He said: “The government could have helped the care homes by not admitting people who had the virus. This is a very dark day.

“In hindsight it’s easy to see that we shouldn’t have been admitting people into care homes with the virus – but we didn’t need hindsight because we were warning about it at the time.”

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