Scottish Government explore whether care home deaths inquiry could cover all four UK nations

The Scottish Government is exploring whether a public inquiry into care home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic could cover all four nations of the UK, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed.

Scotland’s First Minister said her Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has written to counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on the issue.

It comes after MSPs at Holyrood voted in favour of ministers holding an immediate public inquiry into care home deaths.

The Scottish Government has previously said such deaths will be examined in a fuller public inquiry into its handling of the pandemic and the impact of this – adding this should only be held when the second wave of coronavirus is over.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government has “long been clear we would be instigating a public inquiry into all aspects of the response to and impact of Covid, and that includes care homes”.

But she said ministers will “take note of the views of Parliament” after the Holyrood vote.

She added: “Because of that this morning the Health Secretary has written to counterparts in the Northern Irish, Welsh and UK Governments to seek early discussions on whether and how such an inquiry could be established on a four-nations basis.”

It comes after Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron asked what steps the Scottish Government is taking after it was defeated on the issue on Wednesday.

In addition to Ms Freeman contacting other UK health ministers, Ms Sturgeon said the Health Secretary will also be seeking talks with her opposition counterparts.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said: “The Health Secretary will also be inviting opposition spokespeople for discussions next week to discuss the next steps in establishing any inquiry.

“As all members of the chamber know, to establish a statutory public inquiry takes certain steps and cannot simply be done overnight.

“But our commitment to doing that, and to doing that as quickly as possible, while ensuring those on the frontline in any capacity can continue to focus on getting the country through the second wave of Covid, our commitment to doing that is absolute.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Milligan / PA Wire.