Covid-19 care home inquiry to investigate human rights breach
Nicola Sturgeon yesterday committed to the move after demands from Scottish Labour and the Scottish Human Rights Commission, that any inquiry should investigate whether “human rights standards and principles” were met as the government tackled the spread of the virus by moving elderly people out of hospital and into care homes without testing for the virus.
Thirteen care home workers have died from Covid-19, and there were also around 2,400 more deaths in care homes than would normally be expected during the lockdown period, with Covid-19 named as the underlying cause in 79 per cent of the excess deaths.
New figures out yesterday by the Office for National Statistics also showed Scotland was the third worst in Europe for the number of excess deaths, between the end of February to the middle of June. England had the highest levels of excess deaths in Europe, with Spain ranking second followed by Scotland, then Belgium and Wales.
Yesterday Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “No wonder the Scottish Human Rights Commission says we need an inquiry which is prompt, which is independent, which determines responsibility, which is subject to public scrutiny and allows for the involvement of next of kin.
“One which considers whether human rights standards and principles have been met in Scotland’s care homes.”
He raised again the “harrowing” BBC Disclosure documentary which included powerful testimonies from staff and affected families and alleged that care homes had been “pressured” into taking residents from hospitals and a lack of testing of staff, and criticised Nicola Sturgeon for “failing to listen” to concerns from frontline carers, professional associations, Royal Colleges, trade unions and experts.
He added: “Why didn’t you act on the recommendations of your own planning exercises – Iris and Silver Swan – which warned of unpreparedness in social care in the face of a virus?”
Nicola Sturgeon said “human rights should absolutely be at the centre of all we do now and in the future but also should be at the centre of any look back at what’s happened up until now” and said she was “committed to a human rights-based approach to any inquiry.”
She added: “I have already given a commitment to a public inquiry into Covid including the situation in care homes. In their recent report the Scottish Human Rights Commission welcomed my commitment.
“In some cases we may have come to a slightly different conclusion or in a different order or timescale to what others have asked, but that does not equate to not listening - we listen to a wide range of opinion and have to make judgements about the best way forward and at every stage we have sought to put the wellbeing, health and safety of care home staff and residents at the heart of what we do.
“Undoubtedly this government will have made mistakes and we have to acknowledge that and take accountability and learn for the future and I’m committed to doing that.”
Mr Leonard said that care home resident and staff needed “compassion and action”. He added: These frontline carers are still living in fear. Fear that they are not supported by the Scottish Government.
“Fear that they will be written off again, fear that they will go unrecognised, unappreciated and unrewarded now that the clapping has stopped.”
He asked what the First Minister and the Scottish Government will do to support staff and to “give them hope in place of that fear”.
In response, Ms Sturgeon paid tribute to staff in care homes, saying: “I went into this crisis full of admiration for those who work on the frontline of our health and care service and four months on I can not find the words to properly convey the admiration and gratitude I have for them.
“They have done an outstanding job in the most difficult of circumstances and they will have my life long gratitude for that.”
She added: “But, Richard Leonard is right, gratitude is not enough.”
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is working with Scottish Care and trade unions to act on concerns raised with them by frontline staff. She also said there are a number of actions taken by the Scottish Government when issues around personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing are raised, adding they will “continue to do that”.
“For as long as it takes, nothing will be more important to me - and to the whole Scottish Government - than getting the country, not just our care homes...as safely as possible through this pandemic,” Ms Sturgeon said.
Mr Leonard’s party has repeatedly called for a national care service to be established, which they claim should put the health and wellbeing of residents ahead of profits.
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