POLITICS: Baillie on the case immediately over Covid-related deaths in care homes

By Bill Heaney

Dumbarton Labour MSP Jackie Baillie is determined to hold First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s feet to the fire over the Covid 19 death toll in Scotland’s care homes during the past year.

And demand answers about the part the government decision to transfer infected patients from hospital into care had played in that tragedy.

Ms Baillie, pictured right, told MSPs at Holyrood yesterday that on 18 April, in relation to care home transfers, the First Minister said that ‘with the benefit of knowledge we have now (but did not have then), it was a mistake’, but demanded to know if that was strictly true.

She said: “NHS Scotland had classified Covid-19 as a group 3 biological agent, in line with health and safety legislation. That was immediately at the start of the pandemic, and risk assessments were carried out on national health service employees.

“Why were no risk assessments carried out on patients who were transferred to care homes without being tested—which, by law, requires to be done?

“How many times have health boards broken the law in carrying out the Scottish Government’s instructions?

“Will the minister order an urgent review and ask the Lord Advocate [Scotland is without one at present, James Wolffe having resigned] to investigate that breach of the law?”

Ms Baillie added: “What happened in Scotland’s care homes during the pandemic was nothing short of a scandal and the government must be held to account for its catastrophic failure to keep vulnerable people safe.

“The publication of this data is welcome but the fact that it has not been available so far is extraordinary. The data also shows a figure which is at least 14 per cent higher than previously suggested by National Records of Scotland figures.

“Care home residents, staff and their families have been cruelly let down by the Scottish Government and there must be a reckoning at the highest level for those who allowed this tragedy to unfold.  

“That’s why we need a Scotland-specific inquiry into the handling of the pandemic by the Scottish Government.”   

Minister for Mental Health, Kevin Stewart, replied: “The matter has been looked at by the Mental Welfare Commission. Throughout the pandemic period, the Government has followed the advice that we have received from the medical and scientific experts. Ms Baillie might shake her head, but that is the reality.

“There are a number of things that we need to look at over time in order to learn lessons from a situation that was new to us all.

“The Government has said, time and time again, that we will have an inquiry, when all such matters will be looked into, and the Government will, of course, consider all recommendations that come out of that inquiry.”

Picture: Crosslet House Care Home in Dumbarton.

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