Chaos after care homes test advice is published ‘by mistake’
A KEY part of the Scottish Government’s coronavirus response was yesterday branded ‘chaotic’ as the Health Secretary disputed advice issued to hospitals and care homes.
Updated guidance published on Friday evening said hospital patients could still be moved into care homes even if they had not received results of Covid-19 tests.
Jeane Freeman faced heavy criticism yesterday after initially claiming she had not seen the new guidance, issued to care home operators, NHS boards and councils and was published on the Scottish Government website – then later said it had been published in error and was being withdrawn.
Care homes have become the new epicentre of the pandemic in Scotland, with figures showing they accounted for 59 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths in Scotland in the most recent week where data is available.
The updated guidance on Friday evening said that people should be tested ‘within 48 hours prior to discharge from hospital. A single test is sufficient’. It stated patients could be ‘discharged to the care home prior to the test result being available’, and that they should be isolated for 14 days after arriving from hospital.
Professor Graham Ellis, national clinical adviser to the Chief Medical Officer, and deputy chief nursing officer Diane Murray wrote to councils, health boards and care
‘More lives are at risk’
home operators informing them of the redrafted advice.
Chief Nursing Officer Fiona McQueen publicised the new guidance on social media on Saturday. But when asked about it on the BBC’s Politics Scotland programme yesterday, Miss Freeman said: ‘I have not seen absolutely yet the final updated guidance.’
When presenter Gordon Brewer pointed out that the guidance was on the Scottish Government website, she said: ‘Both I and the First Minister have been clear that, before you are discharged from hospital to go to a care home, you need to have given two negative tests.
‘If the guidance is not matching what I am saying to you now, then I will need to deal with that when I’m in St Andrews House today.’
Later, at the Scottish Government’s daily media briefing, Miss Freeman claimed the guidance was a draft that was ‘published in error’. She said: ‘The key point I am being asked about here is what happens when patients are discharged from hospital to a care home. We’ve been very clear that if the patient is in hospital because they had a virus then they would give two negative tests before discharge.
‘If they are in hospital for another reason but are being discharged to a care home then they should give a negative test and be isolated in the care home for 14 days.’
Scottish Labour health spokesman Monica Lennon said: ‘If the revised care home guidance was issued by the Scottish Government in error on Friday, why was the Chief Nursing Officer sharing it on Twitter on Saturday and how did Jeane Freeman not know about it until journalists quizzed her on the testing aspect of the guidance on Sunday?
‘This chaos cannot continue. The advice has now been removed from the government’s official website, which will no doubt leave many people confused about what the guidance should be. Meanwhile, the virus is spreading in care homes and more lives are at risk.
‘Jeane Freeman must apologise and clear up the confusion by making an urgent statement in parliament.’
In the week ending May 3, 523 deaths were linked to Covid-19, 135 lower than the previous week – the first weekly fall since the outbreak began. Care homes accounted for 59 per cent of virus deaths during that week.
Robert Kilgour, executive chairman of the Renaissance Care group, which operates 15 care homes in Scotland, said he is ‘surprised’ guidance stated the result of a test is not required before a hospital patient is moved to a care home. Mr Kilgour said: ‘We have had lectures from Jeane Freeman and Nicola Sturgeon ad infinitum that the reason for the spread of the virus in care homes is to do with care home operators not following guidelines – nothing to do with the government emptying its hospitals too soon without proper testing or the fact that care home staff have not had access to proper testing.
‘We are told there is no point mass testing care home staff and residents because if they don’t have symptoms they will not be positive but we have now had a number of staff who have no symptoms whatsoever but tested positive.
‘Their empty hospital policy and refusal to carry out mass testing is very much part of it as well.’
Disputed: A ‘draft’ of guidance appeared on government website
‘Error’: Jeane Freeman