The spread of coronavirus through Scotland’s care homes “is heartbreaking” and “will haunt many of us for a very, very long time to come,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
The Scottish Government has come under pressure from opposition leaders to reveal the scale of discharging untested hospital patients into care homes.
Figures released last week revealed that 921 patients were released from hospitals into care homes in March – the first month of the coronavirus crisis.
But it was not until April 21 that a policy for mandatory testing of all new care home residents was announced by the Scottish Government.
Speaking to BBC Good Morning Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said: “At every stage we have done what we thought was best – based on the knowledge that we had at the time.
“Of course, mistakes will have been made and we learn as our knowledge of this virus increases. But the suggestion that any of us just acted recklessly or without due care and attention to older people is frankly one that is not true and fundamentally very wrong.”
National Records of Scotland statistics show more than 1400 (45%) of coronavirus-related deaths have been in such facilities.
A report by the think tank Common Weal has claimed care home deaths during the Covid-19 outbreak are “the single greatest failure of the Scottish Parliament” since devolution.
Speaking later at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, the First Minister said she acted with “thought and care” around the discharge of untested hospital patients into care homes in the early days of the coronavirus crisis.
“We perhaps didn’t have many good choices” when it came to dealing with elderly delayed discharge patients in Scottish hospitals.”Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister
“We perhaps didn’t have many good choices” when it came to dealing with elderly delayed discharge patients in Scottish hospitals,” she said.
“It’s very easy to apply hindsight right now and to say what we did then was completely wrong.
“But if you think back to then, we perhaps didn’t have many good choices. We were in a situation where we had older people who are not medically required to be in hospital, in what we call the delayed discharge category.
“And at that time, we were preparing for an influx of coronavirus cases into our hospitals.”
She said the government would have been putting those patients at “significant risk” if they had simply been left in hospital.
On testing, she said: “There are legitimate issues there.
“But of course back then, there was a different view about the efficacy of testing people who didn’t have symptoms.”
She said she expected there would be inquiries and reviews into every aspect of the coronavirus crisis and government responses to it.
On Sunday, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said health secretary Jeane Freeman should “come clean” over the scale of discharging untested hospital patients into care homes.
He said: “The impact of coronavirus in Scotland’s care homes has been little short of horrifying and it is clear that discharging infected patients to care homes has played a key role in fanning the flames of this virus.
“The Cabinet Secretary owes it to the people of Scotland and the families of the residents and staff affected to come clean over the failure of the Government to protect the most vulnerable.”