Care home guidance taken down two days after update due to ‘error’
The Scottish Government has been forced to withdraw new guidance for care homes two days after it was published following questions about rules that allow elderly patients to be discharged from hospitals before receiving coronavirus test results.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman revealed that the guidance, updated at the weekend and welcomed by the care industry and the Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland, had been published “in error” before it had completed the clinical review process.
Last night it remained unclear whether patients in hospital for non-coronavirus treatment would continue to be allowed to return to care homes before their test results are known.
In broadcast interviews before it disappeared from the Scottish Government website yesterday, Ms Freeman admitted she had “not seen the final updated guidance”.
Scottish Labour demanded the Health Secretary come to the Scottish Parliament to answer questions from MSPS and clarify the situation.
It came as reports suggest some care homes in Scotland have infection rates of up to 73 per cent. HC-ONE, the chain which operates a care home on Skye which has seen six deaths in the past week, has issued an apology and said “we know we have not always got things right”.
“Protecting vulnerable care home residents and the staff who look after them should be the Health Secretary’s top priority,” Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said.
“This is an extraordinary blunder that could have gone unnoticed if journalists hadn’t quizzed Jeane Freeman over the weekend.
“Only yesterday the Chief Nursing Officer was tweeting her thanks to colleagues for their work on the guidance, that was published on the Scottish Government website on Friday. Jeane Freeman must apologise and urgently update Parliament on the action the government is taking to address the escalating crisis in care homes before more lives are lost.”
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “Care homes are at the coal face of infection so there is absolutely no room for error. The Scottish Government has repeatedly dropped the ball with regards to infection control and testing at care homes. Everyone working in care homes needs certainty and instead they have guidance that is published only to vanish soon after.
“This level of confusion and incompetence from SNP ministers is totally unacceptable and could be putting vulnerable people at risk.”
The Health Secretary told the BBC’S Politics Scotland programme that “both I and the First Minister have been clear that before you are discharged from hospital to go to a care home, you must have been given two negative tests” for coronavirus.
However, the guidance stated that for patients who have been in hospital for non-coronavirus related treatment, and are not showing any symptoms, “a single test is sufficient”, no more than 48 hours before being discharged.
The guidance added: “The patient may be discharged to the care home prior to the test result being available.
“The patient should be isolated for 14 days from the date of discharge from hospital. Risk assessment prior to discharge from hospital should be undertaken in conjunction with the care home.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said the guidance, which had “not yet been finalised and was issued on the website prematurely”, will be finalised “in the coming days”.
“The guidance will be kept under constant review by the Care Homes Clinical and Professional Advisory Group (CPAG) and should it be required to be updated in the future, we will share that with carehomesasquicklyasispossible,” the spokeswoman said.
Virus app prank fears over selfreporting reliance as Isle of Wight questioned as test base
Concerns have been raised about the UK Government’s Covid-19 contact-tracing app’s reliance on selfreporting and the risk it could be used to “prank” people.
The smartphone download known as NHSX, which alerts mobile phone users if they have come into contact with someone with Covid-19 symptoms, is being trialled on the Isle of Wight before its anticipated roll-out across the rest of the country, but even the location of the trial has been called into question.
Dr Michael Veale, lecturer in digital rights and regulation at University College London, said the app’s reliance on people selfreporting was “a worry”, as well as its inability to work well across borders.
He said the UK was effectively the only country