SNP faces mounting pressure as failure to keep coronavirus promises laid bare in new data

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PRESSURE is mounting on the SNP to answer questions over its handling of testing of staff and patients in Scottish care homes following the publication of shocking data.

Scottish Government data showed that over half of all deaths came from residential homes. The figures, released by the National Records of Scotland, also showed just 65 percent of workers were tested for coronavirus last week.

 

This was despite a Scottish Government pledge by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman in May saying they would test every worker once a week.

At the same time, it has also emerged Scotland’s care watchdog was warned more than 170 times about staff shortages at care homes amid the coronavirus crisis.

Figures show between April 3 and June 17, when care homes were required to inform the Care Inspectorate of staff shortages, 179 notifications were issued.

Freedom of Information requests obtained by Disclosure revealed 30 red warnings were sent between these dates, indicating an insufficient number of staff to properly meet residents’ needs.

Care homes issued 149 amber alerts in the same period, indicating resources were stretched and staffing levels were close to affecting the quality of care.

The National Records of Scotland also revealed that between March 16 and July 19 there were 2,365 (54 percent) more deaths in Scotland’s care homes than average.

COVID-19 was the underlying cause in 1,873 (79 percent) of these excess deaths.

Scottish Labour Leader Richard Leonard has now called on the Health Secretary to focus efforts on expanding testing, as well as launching its own consultation on a plan for a National Care Service.

Mr Leonard said: “Scotland’s care homes, and those who live and work in them, have been on the front line of this pandemic.

“It is clear that the Health Secretary fails to understand the urgency of getting this testing carried out and fails to demonstrate the Scottish Government’s appreciation of these workers, who put themselves in harm’s way to care for others.

“In addition, Jeane Freeman must provide the financial support to ensure that any care staff who take the test face no financial penalties.

“There is no time to lose.

“After this pandemic, we must re-shape Scotland’s care service so that care receivers and workers are protected and empowered.

“The time has come for a National Care Service; the people of Scotland deserve no less.”

Monica Lennon MSP, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, said that the Scottish Health Secretary was being secretive.

She said: “The continued refusal to provide details on the level of the virus and the number of deaths at a care home level means that families continue to be left in the dark.

 

“The least that should be provided is clear information about the prevalence of the virus and the suspected death rates in each care home.

“Withholding this information across the board as a blanket policy is completely unacceptable, and it should be made public.

“Fears over this secrecy only highlights the wider concerns about accountability in care and the need for a national care service.”

In response to the concerns, a Scottish Government spokesman, said: “We have significantly expanded the care home testing programme including the launch of the Social Care Portal and mobile testing units. The latest published figures show that more than 34,000 tests were carried out in the week commencing 10 July.

 “For various reasons, including annual leave, sick leave and rota patterns, around 20-30 percent of care home staff may not be in work to be tested at any one time.

“We have also introduced strengthened clinical oversight to help keep care home residents and workers safe.”

They added of staff shortages: “This is the biggest public health crisis we have faced in our lifetimes and the impact on care homes around the world has been profound.

“It is right and proper that decisions taken during this process face scrutiny in the fullness of time but we are committed to protecting life and protecting people from this virus, and all our efforts are going towards doing everything we can to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Scotland.”

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