Health Secretary to appear before MPs at Westminster

Jeane Freeman expected to face questions on the impact of coronavirus in Scotland's care homes.

Health Secretary to appear before MPs at Westminster Getty Images

Scotland’s Health Secretary is to appear before MPs in a session on the Covid-19 outbreak.

Jeane Freeman and national clinical director Jason Leitch are expected to face questions on the impact of the virus in care homes from the Scottish Affairs Committee.

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Tory MP Andrew Bowie described the situation in Scotland’s care homes during the crisis as “the single biggest failure of devolution”, echoing a report from think tank Common Weal in May.

Statistics published by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) on Wednesday showed 47% of the 4,000 suspected deaths from Covid-19 occurred in care homes, the most of any setting.

Bowie said: “This is the first opportunity that Scottish MPs have had since the beginning of the Covid outbreak to question the SNP Government on their handling of this crisis.

“During that time, Ms Freeman has been responsible for staggeringly high care home deaths, which now outnumber hospital deaths.

“The SNP Government’s reckless decisions to move hospital patients into care homes without mandatory Covid testing must be accounted for.”

The Scottish Government unveiled unverified statistics on the number of infections in hospitals.

They showed up to 1,800 patients and staff could have contracted the disease while in hospital.

Bowie said: “Ms Freeman will also have to explain how so many patients and staff were able to contract Covid-19 on hospital wards.

“And the Health Secretary must answer why the SNP Government has failed to fulfil their own promises on testing with health boards and care homes unable to test their staff.”

He added: “The Common Weal has described the impact of Covid on Scotland’s care homes as the ‘single biggest failure of devolution’.

“Given the other failures that the Health Secretary can claim, there is significant competition for that title.”

SNP MSP George Adam accused the Tories of being “beneath contempt”, adding: “Every single death to this virus – in care homes and elsewhere – is a tragedy, in Scotland and all other countries.

“But the facts are that, under the Tories, England has had the worst excess deaths anywhere in Europe through this pandemic and also more deaths proportionately than any other UK nation.

“In England, patients were transferred at the start of the crisis from hospitals to care homes without testing, while it has been reported that up to a fifth of all Covid-19 in-patients in England contracted the virus while in hospital.

“Jeane Freeman has been working tirelessly to keep Scotland safe and protect our NHS in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic.

“Meanwhile, the Scottish Tories have been more interested in defending Dominic Cummings and launching ill-judged political attacks.”

The Scottish Affairs Committee is holding an inquiry into the outbreak and its effects on Scotland, with interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack already appearing before MPs.

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