Chaos af­ter care homes test ad­vice is pub­lished ‘by mis­take’

Scottish Daily Mail - - Coronaviru­s Crisis - By Michael Black­ley Scot­tish Political Ed­i­tor

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

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