FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon accused of being 'irked' over care home questions

Ruth Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon clashed over the discharge of Covid-positive patients to care homes during the pandemic.

Nicola Sturgeon

The First Minister has said she will make public “all relevant information” about the discharge of elderly patients from hospitals to care homes, after Ruth Davidson accused her of being “irked” by having to answer questions on when she knew Covid-infected people were being transferred without being tested.

At a bad-tempered First Minister's Questions in Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon was asked when she knew that Covid-positive patients were being transferred into care homes, where nearly 2000 have died during the pandemic.

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Scottish Tory Holyrood leader, Ruth Davidson, also said it was not “credible” that the government was setting policy, but “knew nothing about how this policy was being achieved, and wasn't aware of the decision to move Covid-positive patients into care homes.”

However Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government’s objective to reduce the numbers of people in delayed discharge circumstances in hospitals had been "clear” but that ministers were “not party to the clinical risk assessments that are done for individual patients."

She said the government was waiting for analysis from Public Health Scotland “on the numbers of people who were discharged to care homes from hospital who may have had the virus and whether or not they had been tested and what the circumstances were, and we will make that fully available."

She added: I nor any other minister would expect to know the individual details of the clinical risk assessment undertaken of any particular patient.“It is the responsibility of government to set the guidance. We issued that on the 13th of March to care homes, and it was updated as appropriate and we openly and transparently set an objective about delayed discharge.

“It's interesting to me that politicans are trying to suggest they didn't know that was the case. The policy was clear and we will continue to provide as much detail on how that was implemented as we can.

"If Ruth Davidson only learned about this policy in the last few weeks that raises more questions about Ruth Davidson's attention to this situation than anything else. For years opposition politicians have rightly pressed the government to reduce delayed discharge but if they didn’t know we were trying to do that to free up capacity for what was about to happen to our hospitals then I just have to wonder where were they and what were they paying attention to because it wasn’t what was going on with Covid.”

However Ms Davidson hit back, saying affected families needed to know “how many Covid patients were put into the care homes in which their loved ones died”.

She added: “The First Minister is clearly irked by this line of questioning but we've spoken to a number of families who’ve been affected by this. We’ve urged that the Scottish inquiry into care homes start immediately because it's not right, or fair, on families to have information emerge bit by bit, piece by piece – they need answers now.

“Will she commit to publish all correspondence between herself, the health secretary, NHS boards and care homes throughout this pandemic to give families the clarity they deserve?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m happy to make any relevant information available but I’m going further than that. I agree that families should have answers to their questions, that why I've asked Public Health Scotland to look specifically at these questions, to look at if people were tested, and if they weren't why not, and if they had Covid, and that exercise we have asked to be completed by the end of September and we will publish that.”

Earlier Ms Sturgeon had revealed that two deaths from Covid had been registered in the last 24 hours with a further 67 people testing positive, taking the total to 19,988. Of those who tested positive, 249 were in hospital, up six on the previous day.

Separate figures from the National Records of Scotland also showed that by Sunday, August 23 there had been 4,222 deaths where coronavirus was confirmed, and where coronavirus was suspected. That includes six deaths over the period of the week to August 23, Ms Sturgeon said - three more than the previous week. Four of those deaths were in care homes.

She went on to state the total deaths recorded last week from all causes was 40 higher than the five-year average for the same time of year - though the said this figure could "fluctuate".

Of the "main clusters" of coronavirus there are now 156 positive cases linked to the 2 Sisters food processing plant in Coupar Angus, with 138 workers and 18 of their contacts affected. The total was up by four from the previous day, with all four new cases workers in the factory.

Ms Sturgeon said "almost all" employees there had now been tested, saying more 5,000 people in the Tayside area tested over the past seven days.

She said "good progress" was being made in tackling that cluster and that there was "still no evidence at this stage of wider community transmission".

On the cluster at Kingspark School in Dundee, Ms Sturgeon said 31 cases of coronavirus had now been identified, including two pupils of the school.

Meanwhile, the number of cases in the cluster linked with pubs in Aberdeen remains at 261, with 435 cases of coronavirus in the NHS Grampian area over the last month.

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