COVID 19: Social care needs lessons to be learned

By Democrat reporter

The SNP government have been roasted for the “horrifying scale” of delays to cancer diagnosis and treatment.

And they have been taken to task too for the time it is taking to reward care workers for their heroic efforts on the Covid 19 frontline.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has asked the Scottish Government to ensure resources are in place to tackle the “horrifying scale” of delays to cancer diagnosis and treatment.

New statistics published by Public Health Scotland revealed the number of people referred to a cancer specialist decreased by 22% during the first three months of lockdown. 

The statistics also confirmed that the 62-day standard – from receipt of an urgent suspicion of cancer referral to the start of first treatment for newly diagnosed primary cancers – was not met by any of Scotland’s health boards, including the local health board in West Dunbartonshire.  

Mr Cole-Hamilton, pictured left, said: These statistics reveal the horrifying scale of the delays to cancer diagnosis and treatment throughout the pandemic. Families across the country will have been trapped in a state of prolonged anxiety because of the disruption to these life saving services.

“It is incredibly important that treatment and screening now gets back on track as swiftly and safely as possible. Those who receive a distressing cancer diagnosis need to get treated quickly and receive the full package of support.

“The legacy of this pandemic means the NHS is going to be playing catch up on screenings and important appointments for a long time. The Scottish Government must ensure the resources necessary to clear the backlog and treat people quickly are available.”

Commenting on reports that the Public Health Scotland report into Covid-infected patients being transferred from hospital to care homes has been delayed, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “This further delay lends further support for an quick independent inquiry into the first six months of the pandemic so we can quickly learn the lessons.

“No matter how accurate the claims of genuine problems with the data, people will doubt the intentions of a government that clearly made mistakes with the transfer of Covid positive people into care homes.”

Meanwhile, responding to the publication of new statistics showing 1 in 20 people of all ages received social care support and services at some point during 2018/19, Mr Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “To protect the huge number of people who rely on social care, the government needs to learn the lessons of the first six months of the pandemic, when many of them were failed terribly.

“Scottish death rates have been among the highest in the world. We can’t have a repeat of this tragedy as we enter what many fear to be the second wave.

“To help keep them safe there should be an immediate, quick and future-focused inquiry into the handling of the virus crisis. There is no time to wait.”

“We have also asked for a £29 daily pay supplement for those on the frontline of the crisis in recognition of the heightened danger they face, just like those in the military receive.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie commented on the vexed question of contact tracing, which the government says is going well but nearly everyone else contends that it is failing.

Mr Rennie, pictured right,  said that new statistics show that contact tracers have tried but failed to make contact with 1,129 people requiring to quarantine, with spot checks only attempted for 8.7% of quarantining travellers last week.

He added: “The Justice Secretary told me weeks ago he wanted to see spot checks increase because they are important. The very opposite happened. Among the fraction of travellers that tracers have sought to spot check, in excess of 1,000 couldn’t be found.

“Experts have told us some people returning from abroad haven’t played by the rules. The weak system has proven unable to identify this, let alone do anything about it, and that was when virus elimination was the goal.

“The holes in the quarantine system urgently need fixed to help avoid further restrictions being imposed on the entire population.

“We have also been calling for common sense improvements to tracking and reporting the virus, including monitoring the health of those quarantining and for the government to look seriously at the science of airport testing accompanied by follow-up tests at home. Together this could have huge benefits and help Scotland catch up with what other countries are doing.”

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