Health minister denies Nicola Sturgeon 'misled Holyrood' over positive Covid-19 cases being discharged into care homes

Health secretary Jeane Freeman has rejected accusations the First Minister misled Parliament over positive Covid-19 discharges into care homes.
Patients are being discharged into care homes despite having positive Covid-19 tests.Patients are being discharged into care homes despite having positive Covid-19 tests.
Patients are being discharged into care homes despite having positive Covid-19 tests.

Neil Findlay, the Scottish Labour MSP, said one constituent who was admitted to hospital on Tuesday then tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday and was discharged into a care home on Thursday.

He raised the fact he had asked the First Minister last week whether this meant Scotland was back to discharging such patients into care homes, to which Nicola Sturgeon said “there is no such policy and there will not be one”.

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The Lothian MSP also quoted Ms Freeman, who had previously said a patient with a positive Covid-19 test should remain in hospital and be treated for the virus, and asked whether they had misled Parliament.

Mr Findlay said he had spoken to families, staff and managers at other care homes who were reporting similar cases.

He said: “All have told me of cases of Covid positive hospital discharges to care homes taking place that are not end-of-life cases and where none or a very limited risk assessment has been carried out.

“I’ve also been advised by care home staff that they have been repeatedly asked to accept Covid positive patients with no negative test and told just to isolate them for 14 days instead.

"Did the First Minister mislead Parliament on Thursday or did she not know what her own government guidance was?”

The Cabinet Secretary for Health denied the accusation and claimed the guidance had been “clear” and that “nothing has changed”.

Ms Freeman said “exceptional circumstances” for not requiring a Covid-19 test had been in guidance since May and insisted it was right that clinicians were given the power to make these decisions if necessary on the basis of their clinical knowledge and judgement.

She said: "I think it is entirely the right position to have in this instance, as in other instances of medical care, that we allow doctors, on the basis of their clinical knowledge of the patient, their experience and their expertise, their many years of training to exercise clinical judgement.

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"I do not think it would be right for this politician or any politician of any stripe to take away that capacity of clinicians to exercise clinical judgement.”

The health minister said there was detailed guidance around the exceptional circumstances such as end of life care, or when administering a test would be distressing, which would allow a lack of a negative test.

Mr Findlay responded by saying the guidelines were being “repeatedly flouted” and asked whether such a policy would mean restricting visitor access for residents in care homes which received Covid-19 positive patients.

Ms Freeman confirmed that is the case and said the Scottish Government was looking at the potential to reduce the waiting time for residents down from 28 days.

She said: “I’m happy to inform the chamber that our chief medical officer is leading a discussions with clinicians to see if it is possible and safely, given what we know on the developing knowledge on the epidemiology of this virus, whether it is possible to safely reduce that length of time.

“Depending on that advice then I will act, but I will not act in defiance of clinical advice.”

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