Sturgeon: Government not involved in moving Covid-19 patients to care homes

Government officials are not involved in decisions to discharge Covid-19 positive patients from hospitals to care homes, the First Minister has said.

Nicola Sturgeon was pressed on the issue by the leader of the Conservatives in Holyrood Ruth Davidson and Labour leader Richard Leonard – who also said a freedom of information (FOI) request by his party showed 1,200 people had been moved without being tested.

Over the weekend, the Sunday Post reported that at least 37 patients across Scotland had been discharged to a care home after having tested positive for the virus.

The First Minister said clinical decisiTons were made to move people out of hospital, which she or her ministers would not be involved in.

She said: “This is a really serious issue so I welcome the opportunity to address it.

“Scottish Government ministers do not know the individual clinical decisions that are taken in cases of patients being discharged from hospital, whether they’re being discharged to their own homes or to a care home or any other setting.

“The responsibility of ministers is to put in place guidance. There has been guidance in place since March 13. The March 13 guidance refers to the need for clinical screening of patients being discharged from hospital to take place.”

The First Minister also pointed to work commissioned by the Health Secretary this week which will see Public Health Scotland publish figures on discharges from hospitals to care homes, including their testing history for the virus along with how many were discharged while they were considered to be infectious and what the rationale was for the discharge.

The study is expected to be made public by the end of September.

Mr Leonard also revealed that an FOI request from his party found that 1,203 people were discharged without a test between March and May, but said that was likely to be a “gross underestimate” as five NHS boards did not report back, including the two biggest in Scotland, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lothian.

In May, Mr Leonard said, Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament that patients in hospitals would need to have two negative tests before they could be discharged, before asking if the First Minister was aware at the time this was not happening in all situations.

She replied: “When I gave that answer, I gave the policy position at the time, that position has moved on and developed but at that point the policy position was where somebody had been known in hospital to have Covid, they had to have two negative tests before being admitted to a care home.”

The First Minister said the guidance was “reflected in practice at that time” and the testing of care home residents and staff has since been expanded.

She added that a change in understanding of the effectiveness of testing people without symptoms – which was initially thought to be less effective – led to the testing policy being expanded further.

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