Care crisis: SNP Health Secretary accused of ‘clearing’ elderly into care homes

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In Holyrood this afternoon, Labour MSP Neil Findlay accused Jeane Freeman and the Scottish Government of “clearing the decks” by moving patients from hospitals to care homes when the pandemic struck. It comes after data revealed that at least 37 potentially infectious people in hospitals who tested positive for COVID-19 were still discharged into care homes.

 

Mr Findlay said: “The reality is we couldn’t get people out of hospital quick enough.

“These were people, many of them who had been in hospital for months and months, long-term delayed discharge cases.

“This was not about the best clinical care it was about clearing the decks of all those elderly people, our loved ones.”

But Ms Freeman was quick to respond and said: “I would never ever be so offensive as to describe clinical decisions as ‘clearing the decks’.”

She told MSPs the guidance on discharge to care homes “has evolved since the start of the pandemic”.

Ms Freeman said decisions on the transfer of patients were made by clinicians and not ministers.

“The Government did not send people to care homes, these are clinical decisions,” the Health Secretary said.

“It is entirely wrong to say the government sent people to care homes. We did not.”

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative Health spokesman branded the decisions to move patients who had tested positive as “potentially fatal mistakes”.

He said: “It has taken months for this chamber and the Scottish public to learn that 37 patients were sent to care homes.

“The First Minister has a broadcast everyday and she did not mention it.

“We only heard about these appalling mistakes, mistakes that possibly caused lives, because of a newspaper investigation and one that didn’t even include responses from every health board in Scotland.”

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He added: “Nearly 2,000 people have died in care homes in Scotland from coronavirus, every single one of them an unspeakable tragedy.”

Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon MSP, said: “I am disappointed she is using the clinicians as a shield, rather than take responsibility for her Government’s guidance.”

At the same time, Ms Freeman also ordered Public Health Scotland to reveal how many patients were transferred from hospitals to care homes after testing positive for coronavirus.

The organisation will produce the new data including how many people were thought to be infectious when moved.

 



So far, data from the National Records of Scotland show there have been 1,950 deaths in Scottish care homes where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

1,431 untested patients were moved to care homes between March 1 and April 21 before testing of new care home admissions became mandatory, the data revealed.

Ms Freeman, added: “We have worked to make as much data available as is practical on a range of issues related to Covid-19 and that is why 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 cases of palliative care concerns.”

She also hit back and denied that she had been hiding behind clinicians and added: “I am not shielding behind clinicians, I am not using clinicians.

“It is a statement of fact, the clinical assessment whether it is about delayed discharge, whether it is about what happens to someone who pitches up at A&E, whether it is about the treatment of cancer, are clinical decisions and rightly so.”

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