The responsibility of dealing with this will certainly bear heavily on me for probably the rest of my life – Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister pledges to make care home residents a government priority

By Bill Heaney

The deadly corona virus which has taken so many lives in West Dunbartonshire and beyond has not gone away, Labour leader Richard Leonard told the First Minister today.

He asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to turn to the crisis in our care homes, and to make them a priority from here on in.

He said: “That crisis, the unnecessary deaths in our care homes and the anxiety and fear of their staff have not gone away. As lockdown measures are eased, there is a real risk that they will increase and intensify.

“The Government was too slow to take responsibility for care home residents for the first two months of the crisis.

“Now, as lockdown is lifted, they must be a priority. That is about the protection of their physical health through testing and personal protective equipment but it is also about their mental and emotional well-being, which we know will have been damaged by months of fear, isolation and—not least—separation from their families.

“As the rest of the country gradually returns to some kind of normality, how will the Government ensure that the rights, well-being and dignity of our care home residents are respected and upheld?”

The FM said: “Nothing matters more to me than making sure that we protect the health, dignity and rights of everybody in society, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

“That undoubtedly includes care home residents, and we will continue, each and every step of the way, to take the actions that we think are right and necessary to provide as much protection as possible.

“Every single one of us who has been in a position of taking decisions to deal with this crisis will have made mistakes—I have no doubt about that.

“That is in the nature of dealing with an unprecedented situation—and doing so without the hindsight that many are now trying to apply.

“The responsibility of dealing with this will certainly bear heavily on me for probably the rest of my life, and I am sure that many people in my position will feel the same.

“What I want to make clear is that, at every stage, based on the best information and knowledge that we have, we try to do the right things. In relation to care homes in particular, there will undoubtedly be very legitimate and hard questions for us all to reflect on—that is how we learn.

“However, some of what people say now fails to take account of the situation that we were dealing with.

“For example, I hear people say now that care home residents should not have been discharged from hospital; however, back then, we were waiting for a potential tsunami of coronavirus cases going into our hospitals.

“If we had not tried to get people who did not medically require to be in hospital out of there, that would also have exposed people to very significant risks.

I hear people saying “testing” from a sedentary position, which is, again, legitimate. However, we must remember that our knowledge of the efficacy of testing in asymptomatic people back then was different from what it is now.

“The point that I am making is not that there are not legitimate questions—there are, and I ask myself those questions every single day.

“The point that I am making is that, at every step of the way, we have acted with care and thought and with the best intentions to provide the best protection for everybody, including the most vulnerable.

“That is what we will continue to do every step of the way.”

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