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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

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Scottish Government's response to care home deaths "too little too late"

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Leading charity hits out and calls for full national inquiry

Age Scotland has said social care should have been the focal point in the national response to the pandemic from the start and that the Scottish Government’s admission of accountability was “too little, too late.”

It comes after health secretary Jeane Freeman admitted the government had failed the social care sector in its response to the lockdown and that the right precautions had not been taken when elderly people were being discharged from hospital to care homes.

A third of all Covid-related deaths have been in care homes.

In the first wave of the pandemic, more than 1,300 elderly people were discharged from hospitals to care homes in Scotland before a testing regime was in place.

Freeman said: “I think our failures were not understanding the social care sector well enough.

"So we didn't respond quickly enough to what was needed in our care homes, but also in social care in the community."

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said lessons had to be learned and called for a full inquiry into the deaths.

“With a third of all Covid-related deaths occurring in care homes, the severe challenges faced in social care should have been a focal point in the national response to the pandemic right from the start.

“Sadly, this admission comes as no surprise, and further confirms the concerns we’ve been voicing for the past year.

“It was clear from the very beginning that care homes and the social care sector were on the front line of the fight against Covid-19, but the delay in recognising this and ensuring they were fully equipped to handle the situation caused significant problems.

"That first month of lockdown in particular was frantic for social care in terms of the lack of PPE, access to medical treatment, transfers from hospital, the removal of care packages overnight, and blanket Do Not Attempt Resuscitation decisions.

“When originally challenging the transfer of Covid-19 positive patients to care homes at the height of the pandemic, we were repeatedly assured of the protective measures being taken.

“As we hear more information and evidence, it has become apparent that the necessary safeguards which patients, residents, family members, care homes and the public relied on were not as robust as they should have been.

“Older people’s best interests and safety should have been at the heart of all decision-making, but has it been the case in reality?

“For many, this admission of accountability will be too little too late. There are still so many unanswered questions and, as we’ve repeatedly stressed, the only way to gain any closure and learn from mistakes is a full and thorough inquiry into Scotland’s handling of the pandemic.

"Decisions affecting care homes, and social care more broadly, have been central to the national response and, as such, must make up a key part of this investigation.”

June Andrews, a professor of dementia studies, last week accused Freeman of wrongly suggesting that Covid-19 had spread rapidly through private care homes because they were concerned about making a profit.

Freeman said that she had never blamed care homes or their staff for pandemic deaths.