Health secretary Jeane Freeman has announced a plan to try to help the social care sector prepare for winter in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Freeman said the adult social care winter preparedness plan will be supported by an additional £112m in funding and stressed that lessons have been learned to protect staff and people who need social care.
Detailing the new measures in the Scottish Parliament, Freeman said the strategy was based on “evidence to protect people from the direct impact of Covid-19 and winter viruses”.
The plan includes daily reviews of Covid-19 symptoms in care home residents and staff, including temperature checking to encourage early coronavirus testing and pre-emptive infection control measures.
There will also be expanded testing access for care workers and designated visitors to care home residents as Scotland’s testing capacity increases by the end of the year.
“This is the first national winter plan for the adult social care sector,” she told MSPs.
“Like all plans, it is not set in concrete and will have to adapt as circumstances change and new pressures and demands arise.
“That is all the more certain as we deliver on its requirements in the middle of a pandemic, but the principles it rests on remain.
“It is a plan built on partnership and it can only be delivered in partnership – with collaboration, clear leadership, investment and pragmatism.
“Our challenges are many, but our advantages are all that we have already learned, the developing and deepening evidence that informs our decisions, the relationships and leaderships we have at local level, across the country and nationally, and most of all the skill, care and dedication of all those who work in adult social care.”
Commenting on the publication of the plan, Cosla’s health and social care spokesman Stuart Currie said: “The social care sector and Scotland’s social care workers have faced enormous challenges during the Covid-19 response, and the adult social care plan will enable them to continue to provide valuable help and support to those in the community that need it most.
“The pandemic has had a drastic impact on those that require support both at home and in residential settings, and the funding announced by the Scottish Government as part of the plan will go some way to addressing that.”
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said: “The number of deaths in Scotland’s care homes during the first wave was a tragedy that must not be repeated.
“While additional funding has been made available to support minimising staff movement, given the chronic staff shortages in the sector, this will be challenging for nursing staff and providers.
“There are significant questions over where the workforce is going to come from to cover sickness absence and provide the support needed.
“Last week’s report on discharges made clear the challenges that face the care home sector – we must learn the lessons and ensure the additional resources announced today make a difference for Scotland’s care home residents and the nursing staff who care for them.”