Covid-19 tests urged for all moving from hospital to care home

Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls to further ramp up coronavirus testing as care home deaths mount.

The Scottish Government has been urged to go further with its coronavirus testing to protect care home residents and staff.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced all residents showing symptoms will now be tested for the infection after new figures revealed a quarter of all coronavirus deaths in Scotland occurred in care homes.

But the Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrats all want patients leaving hospital to be tested for Covid-19 before they can return to a care home.

The plea comes after UK health secretary Matt Hancock said everybody going from hospital into social care south of the border will be tested for coronavirus and isolated until they get their results.

As of Sunday, 962 people with confirmed or suspected coronavirus had died in Scotland, of which 237 (25%) were in care homes.

A total of 433 care homes have reported coronavirus cases.

Sturgeon argued tests on people who do not have symptoms are not reliable, meaning testing people leaving hospital could give care homes “false assurance” a person returning is not infected, causing staff to wrongly relax infection control measures.

Before the Scottish Government’s daily briefing on Wednesday, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said she had written to health secretary Jeane Freeman to ask about whether patients were tested before being discharged to care homes.

She said: “Hundreds of older people have been discharged from hospital in recent weeks to relieve pressure on our NHS – and many of them to residential care.

“Worryingly, we now know that coronavirus is spreading within hospitals, as well as care homes, but efforts to test, trace and isolate the virus are woeful.

“That’s why I’ve asked Jeane Freeman whether hospital patients are being tested for Covid-19 before being discharged to care homes – and if not, why not?

“Urgent action is needed to save lives.”

Following the briefing, Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Clearly, elderly patients shouldn’t be leaving hospital and going into a care home without being tested for coronavirus.

“If the SNP Government takes a different approach to testing on this specific matter, it will again be under pressure to show why this is of benefit to the people of Scotland.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “Every person being admitted to a care home should be tested for coronavirus. No exception.

“For homes that have been diligently applying safety measures to keep residents safe, this is an additional risk they should not be forced to accept.”

Interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith stressed the importance of treating each patient as an individual and carrying out a risk assessment to protect them and other care home patients “as soon as they make that passage from hospital discharge back into a care home”.

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