Sturgeon, Rennie and Freeman discuss care home visiting.

By Bill Heaney

A national care for the elderly home group has asked non-essential visitors not to visit its homes, the Holyrood parliament heard on Thursday.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said that begs the question about the Scottish Government’s approach to people who are cared for in their own homes.

He asked: “If the symptoms of the coronavirus do not show until some time after a person is infected, what is the advice?

“How has the Government evaluated the risks of visiting elderly and vulnerable neighbours, and how will isolated people who have no family support get help when the peak of the virus hits home?”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told him: “The issues around care homes have been raised with me directly, and I know that they have also been raised with the health secretary. Scottish Government officials and Health Protection Scotland are looking right now at the advice that will be provided to the care home sector on all those issues. We will ensure that members of the Scottish Parliament are provided with information about that as soon as possible.”

Willie Rennie said: “The issues are very difficult. Everybody in the chamber will try to help to get clarity on exactly what is required and advised.

“As intensive treatment unit capacity is limited, how will the Government create enough isolation spaces for the predicted numbers of patients who will need respiratory support, and where will those spaces be?

“It has been suggested that options could include clearing wards with lots of single rooms, stopping elective operations and using theatres for isolation support.

“The new neuroscience building at the children’s hospital in Edinburgh has capacity for 70 beds. What obstacles are there to using that building, and can they be overcome in the next few weeks, before the peak of the outbreak hits?

Crosslet House 3

Crosslet Care Home in Dumbarton – real possibility of no visiting.

The First Minister said:The new neurosurgery facilities at the hospital in Edinburgh are being looked at right now. Obviously, we have to ensure that any facilities would be safe to use, but we want to ensure that we are able to utilise all the capacity that can be used within the national health service [such as the Vale of Leven Hospital].

“The health secretary [Jeane Freeman] mentioned ITU capacity in the statement that she gave earlier this week. She will give further details in the statement that she will give to the Parliament next Tuesday. We are seeking to double the provision of intensive care capacity. That will involve using different facilities within hospitals—theatre facilities, for example. All of that is being progressed right now as part of the implementation plan to scale up NHS resources.

“Although we will provide more detail as we go along, I want to be very clear that there will, inevitably, be an impact, and I anticipate that it will be a significant impact, on non-urgent, elective procedures within the national health service. However, it is important that we set that out properly once the planning has been done.

“That planning is under way, very intensively. We are doing everything that we can to increase intensive care capacity, and also to expand general hospital capacity and the number of beds that are available. The health secretary will be able to give more information about that when she further updates Parliament at the start of next week.”

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