Scotland needs a dedicated “Minister for Care Homes” say Tories

A dedicated minister for care homes should be appointed in Scotland, the Scottish Tories have said.

There are demands for a dedicated minister to deal with the crisis
There are demands for a dedicated minister to deal with the crisis

The move may help ensure that a "proper testing regime" is implemented across the sector amid ongoing concerns about the volume and speed of these being carried out.

But ministers insist there has been a "huge effort" to increase testing capacity.

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The latest official figures published yesterday showed that more than 1800 residents have died in care home deaths. They now account for more than half of all COVID-19 deaths in Scotland, after overtaking hospitals.

Jackson Carlaw has called for a dedicated care homes minister

Scots Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said neither health secretary Jeane Freeman nor communities secretary Aileen Campbell were on top of the issue.

“The crisis in care homes is now so severe that it requires the undivided attention of a dedicated government minister," he said

“Deaths in that sector have even overtaken hospitals, which amplifies just how severe an emergency this is.

“It’s become obvious that neither the health secretary nor the communities secretary are remotely on of the problem.

He added: “Promises have been broken and performance has been abysmal.

“At least a minister for care homes might finally be able to give this serious matter the focus it deserves.”

But Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell insisted a "huge effort" had been made in Scotland to increase testing capacity "particularly for sectors that require testing to be as rigorous and robust and as regular as possible".

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She told the same programme: "We absolutely understand the need to support care homes at this critical time and that is why the capacity has been increased, and that is why we are continuing to work as hard as we possibly can, with a range of partners, to increase that capacity, to make sure that capacity is being used, to make sure our care homes are safe for people."

She added: "The capacity is there, we know how critically important it is to have the tests done."

Speaking about efforts to support the care home sector, Ms Campbell added: "What we have now in place is increased availability and testing capacity, there is good guidance that was done and delivered, I would say fairly robustly as well, to make sure people had confidence about what their working practices need to be.

"There has been support and funding put in place, there has been the bringing together of the Care Inspectorate, of health and social care partnerships, of the NHS, councils, local authorities, to make sure everyone pulls together who has an interest in making sure our care homes are supported."

And she said: "Nobody feels comfortable with the level of mortality we have seen as a result of the pandemic, everyone is wanting to make sure we pull together to make sure those places are as safe as they can be, that people are protected and that staff feel protected as well."

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