FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon challenged to test all care home residents and staff in next fortnight

Nicola Sturgeon was today challenged to have all 85,000 residents and staff in Scotland’s care homes tested for coronavirus in the next two weeks.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said that two thirds of Scotland's testing capacity was not being used, and as a result all care home workers and residents could be tested.

His demand at First Minister’s Questions came as Nicola Sturgeon revealed the latest Covid-19 death figures, which showed that 59 per cent of all fatalities to the virus were in care homes.

Read More
More than 400 Scots care homes hit by COVID-19 cases
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Leonard said: “In just the last week, the Covid-19 outbreak at the Home Farm care home on the Isle of Skye has tragically demonstrated how rapidly and widely this virus can spread in care homes.

“It has also brought home the importance of testing all care home residents and staff, not just those who are symptomatic.

“There are around 85,000 residents and workers in care homes for older people in Scotland. If we have the capacity for 10,500 tests a day, with almost two-thirds of that daily testing capacity currently going unused, then there is no reason why everyone in Scotland’s care homes, both staff and residents, couldn’t be tested over the next two weeks.”

The First Minister inisisted she was “deeply concerned” and “distressed” about the situation in care homes, but said health boards public health directors were already in contact with every care home in Scotland to “address deficiencies” in infection prevention and control.

“Not a day, an hour, goes by when the health secretary, I and others, do not discuss the action that is being taken and the support given to deal with the situation in care homes,” she said. “I absolutely understand how deeply distressing this is partuiculary for relatives of those in care homes, and those who work in care homes.

“The figures are deeply distressing, and not to underplay or minimise the impact on individuals, these figures also show that for the first time since the situation occured in care homes we’ve seen a reduction in number of deaths.”

She added: “Testing is important but it has to be cinically driven as well. Where there’s an outbreak there’s testing of all residents and staff whether symptomatic or asymptomatic and there’s also testing being done in care homes without outbreaks.

“It’s really important, particularly for frail, elderly people as the tests can be quite invasive, that it’s driven by best clinical advice and evidence. We must not over simplify the situation to say it’s the only thing that matters, basic infection prevention and control is the most important thing in care homes dealing with this infection, or any infection.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“That’s why we’ve got directors of public health providing the enhanced clinical leadership they are. They’ve contacted every care home in Scotland, they are assessing, care home by care home, how infection prevention control is managed, they are working to rectify deficiences and the Care Home Rapid Action Group is taking accelerated action where that is necessary working with care home providers.”

Mr Leonard also called for the government to extend the NHS death in service benefit to care workers who were “putting themselves at risk on the frontline”.

He said: “This is something the First Minister could put right. This is something the First Minister should put right. The Scottish TUC has called for all key workers, including care workers to receive a pay rise of £2 an hour. Will the First Minister support this call from the STUC, and will she provide the funding for it and will she see this as an important first step in ending the long-term undervaluation of our care workers?”

Ms Sturgeon said that the government did not directly employ the social care workforce in the way it does NHS staff, so could not offer the same death in service benefit, but added she did want to see the issue “properly addressed”.

“I bow to nobody in my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for health and care workers the length and breadth of this country,” she said. “We need to make sure we’re rewarding them properly. In Scotland, and this is not to say they’re paid enough, social care workers are already paid more than their counterparts in England and Wales.

“As we go forward we want to make sure we’re valuing those who do so much for us, but we do that in discussion and consultation. We discuss issues of pay and rewards in partnership with trade unions and employers and right now we’re holding twice weekly meetings with the STUC.

“Let me be very clear we owe a deep debt of gratitude to health and care workers and it's one I’m certain must be paid in words and recognition, but in more than words as well.”

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.