Sturgeon: There will be public inquiry into care home deaths

The FM was challenged over care homes as new figures showed more than 1700 deaths of residents from Covid-19.

Play icon

The First Minister has said there will be a formal public inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, including in care homes.

Nicola Sturgeon was challenged over care home deaths as the latest figures showed more than 1700 elderly residents with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 have died since the pandemic began.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw branded the issue a “national scandal” and claimed care home residents had been treated as “second-class citizens”.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said there had been a “rush to discharge” hospital patients to residential care facilities at the start of the outbreak without adequate testing in place.

The First Minister “took exception” to the idea the elderly had been treated as “second-class” and said hospital beds had been cleared out of fears a “tsunami” of new Covid-19 cases might have overwhelmed the NHS.

She said the guidance at the time was clear that people with coronavirus symptoms should not be discharged to care homes, and said care homes, even privately-run, should have adhered to that guidance.

Last week, health secretary Jeane Freeman revealed that 921 “delayed discharge” patients were moved to care homes in March – far higher than initially thought.

However, mandatory testing of all those being moved into care homes only began on April 21.

Demanding a formal public inquiry, Carlaw said: “It is now clear that what happened in our care homes in March and April was a national scandal.”

Sturgeon assured the Scottish Tory leader there would be a public inquiry into the coronavirus crisis which would “undoubtedly include what happened in care homes”, although she did not say when it would begin.

The First Minister said she could see why “with everything we know now” people would ask questions about the approach to discharging to care homes.

But she insisted: “Throughout this crisis I’ve taken the best decisions I can based on the best information and evidence I had at the time.”

The Scottish Labour leader highlighted that the World Health Organisation had been calling for all countries to test on a mass scale since March.

Not doing so until April for those moving into care homes, he said, had resulted in “devastating consequences” for residents.

Sturgeon said if those people had not been moved from hospital, some might have caught coronavirus there as well.

She added: “More than Richard Leonard might know, I regret every person who has lost their life.”