FM defends government policy on care home discharges

Untested hospital patients only sent to care homes in 'exceptional circumstances', Nicola Sturgeon said.

FM defends government policy on care home discharges Getty Images

A hospital patient would only be sent to a care home without a coronavirus test in “exceptional circumstances”, the First Minister has said.

There has been criticism from opposition parties after it emerged at the weekend that such discharges without two negative tests were still allowed.

Nicola Sturgeon insisted Scottish Government policy had not changed and insisted untested patients would only be sent to care homes in “exceptional circumstances” for clinical reasons.

Speaking at the daily briefing on Monday, Sturgeon said: “I want to emphasise that the policy is that anyone who has had Covid should have two negative tests before being discharged from a hospital to a care home.

“Anyone who has been in hospital for reasons other than Covid should still have one negative test recorded before they are discharged to a care home and that is the policy, and that is very clear, and it has not changed since we introduced it earlier in the pandemic.

“However, sometimes there can be exceptional circumstances based on the clinical interests of a patient that mean something different will happen.”

The Scottish Government has repeatedly come under fire for its handling of care homes during the pandemic.

In the early months of the pandemic in Scotland, between March 1 and April 21, thousands of patients were discharged from hospital to a care home without being tested, according to a Public Health Scotland report.

Official guidance at that time said it was only required if they were showing symptoms.

On Sunday, the Scottish Conservatives said more untested patients being sent to care homes created the potential for a “disaster”.

Shadow health spokesman Donald Cameron said: “The SNP have clearly not learned the harsh lessons of the first wave of the pandemic, when we saw Covid-19 ripping through care homes if given even the slightest chance.

“If this practice is allowed to happen again, it has the potential to be a disaster that ends in the tragic loss of even more lives.”

But, speaking about the “exceptional circumstances” in which a move would happen without a test, Sturgeon said: “It is important also to stress that would only happen in consultation with the patient, if that was possible, and with the patient’s family and care home.

“It would follow a thorough risk assessment of appropriate mitigating actions and support being in place and a 14-day period of isolation would be applied to that patient.

“Such a decision… would be clinically led and driven by the clinical interests of the patient. It would be wrong and I hope you can understand this for any politician to seek to interfere with clinical decisions of this nature.”

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