Dozens of hospital patients who tested positive for coronavirus were sent to care homes as the pandemic began to grip Scotland.
However, a report from Public Health Scotland (PHS) concluded that there was no “statistically significant” link between discharges and Covid outbreaks.
The figures show 78 people who tested positive in hospitals were discharged to care homes between March 1 and April 21.
Thousands more were transferred without being tested during that period, the report said. Of those 3599 people, only 650 were given tests, with official guidance at that time stating they were only required if symptoms were showing.
In the following month, there were 1605 discharges from hospitals to care homes, with 93% of them (1493) being tested for Covid-19, in line with changes in clinical guidance.
Of these, 1215 tested negative and 278 tested positive.
Nearly 350 care homes suffered a Covid outbreak between March 1 and June 21, according to the report, with around half of the 4400 virus-linked deaths in Scotland accounted for by the facilities.
PHS said discharges from hospitals did not create a “statistically significant” risk of outbreaks, adding that the size of care homes was a bigger contributing factor.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said further work would take place to give a more detailed understanding of care home outbreaks.
She said: “Nothing in it [the report] detracts from the tragedy of the deaths that have occurred in care homes over the course of the pandemic, and nothing ever will detract from the heartbreak of those bereaved.
“Where the report’s conclusions highlight the need for additional measures, we will act on that.
“I want people to know we take this very seriously.”
Opposition politicians, however, said the report revealed a “scandalous dereliction” of public health duties.
Scottish Conservatives shadow health secretary Donald Cameron said: “Families who lost loved ones after Covid-positive hospital patients were knowingly discharged into care homes have been waiting months for answers from this SNP government.
“Today’s overdue report reveals a scandalous dereliction in the provision of public health to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“To see people’s worst fears confirmed by these statistics only adds to the need for full and frank disclosure from the SNP.”
Scottish Care, which represents private homes, said the report only told “part of the story”.
Chief executive Dr Donald Macaskill said: “The statistical analysis is thorough and highlights that the risks to care homes in terms of outbreaks are related to the size of a care home.
“This is because larger care homes tend to be nursing homes, dealing with more frail residents and those living with dementia; they have larger numbers of staff members and environmentally because of size present greater risks.
“What is missing amongst all the data and statistics, the numbers and charts, is the story of those who cared for residents in our care homes.
“I hope the researchers can take some time to listen to the experience of staff in care homes where there have been significant outbreaks.
“At the moment we have one side of the story, what is missing is the frontline experience of our care sector and its staff, the voices of those who received care and their families.”
He added: “The report is a reminder of the pain we have all endured. Its insight should become the energy to ensure that the whole health and care system really does support the care home sector in the weeks ahead, that it becomes each of our responsibilities to protect by our everyday action, putting the needs of the residents rather than the protection of any system or organisation at the heart of that shared focus.”
A further 28 people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus, the First Minister has confirmed.
Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 60,403 – a jump of 1202 in the past 24 hours and 6.8% of all tests carried out on Tuesday.
The official death toll in Scotland now stands at 2754, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is more than 4400.
Of the new cases reported on Wednesday, 451 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 292 are in Lanarkshire, 152 are in Lothian, and 91 are in Ayrshire and Arran.
The remaining cases are spread across nine other health board areas. NHS Western Isles was the only health board not to record a new case.
According to management information reported by NHS boards across Scotland, 1117 people are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 – an increase of 17 overnight. Out of those, 85 patients are in intensive care.
Earlier on Wednesday it was revealed that 78 hospital patients in Scotland who had tested positive for Covid-19 were discharged into care homes from March 1 to April 21.
Public Health Scotland’s study found that between those dates there were 3599 discharges from hospital to a care home, the majority (81.9%) of which were not tested for Covid-19.
Of the 650 who were tested, 78 had received a positive result while in hospital.
Between April 22 and May 31, there were 1605 discharges from hospital to a care home.
The majority (1493 – 93%) were tested for Covid-19, in line with changes in clinical guidance. Of these, 1215 tested negative and 278 tested positive. Of those who tested positive, 233 had a negative test result prior to discharge.
At the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said the report concluded that allowing for other factors, such as the size of a care home, “hospital discharges were not found to have contributed to a significantly higher risk of an outbreak”.
Quoting directly from the report, she stated: “The analysis does not find statistical evidence that hospital discharges of any kind were associated with care home outbreaks.”
She said Public Health Scotland would now be carrying out further work to give a more detailed understanding of Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes.
Speaking about Scotland’s new five-tier system for restrictions, Sturgeon said formal confirmation of which levels would be applied to different local authority areas would be revealed on Thursday.
She said: “Work to finalise these decisions will take place over the course of today and this evening.
“The position we are in right now is really tough, and everyone is thoroughly sick of it.
“That has been the case for some time, but as the nights get darker, as we head into winter, and as our attention and thoughts turn to Christmas, I think that feeling becomes a heavier one for all of us.”
It was signed by chief executives of North and South Lanarkshire councils, Des Murray and Cleland Sneddon, chief executive of NHS Lanarkshire, Heather Knox, and area’s police commander, superintendent Alan Waddell.
Level four is the closest to a full lockdown, similar to the one introduced at the end of March, and would mean non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants have to close.
The letter argues the area’s figures are improving and warned of “significant additional harms and consequences” if placed under stricter restrictions.
It goes on to urge the Scottish Government to consider placing both North and South Lanarkshire in level three.
The letter says: “We have been following the numbers intensely and the Scottish Government figures for Lanarkshire have declined.
“There is emerging clear evidence in Lanarkshire that the very steep rise has been halted and that there is an indication that cases are falling to some extent.”
The letter goes on to warn the Scottish Government that a move to level four has “considerable implications for Lanarkshire and beyond”.
It adds: “It has significant impacts on health and wellbeing, public services, and business and the economy.”
The Lanarkshire bosses say they support basing measures on virus transmission but “do not believe the most up-to-date statistics support a move to Level 4” for their area.
The letter states: “There is a decline in the key indicators for Lanarkshire when the most up-to-date data is considered.
“Against that backdrop, and the significant additional harms and consequences we have set out for level four when compared with the other levels, we would urge the Scottish Government to place Lanarkshire in level three of the restrictions and assume that its neighbouring authorities will be in a similar position.”
Level three of the tier system would mean alcohol sales both indoors and outdoors will not be permitted in the area, although some restaurants may be able to open under strict conditions.
Level four is the most similar to a full lockdown with non-essential shops being forced to close.
Socialising would not be allowed in people’s homes, but six people from two households could still meet outdoors and there would be no limit on outdoor exercise.
Non-essential travel would be banned and there could be limits on the distance people can travel, as well as guidance to stay at home.
For further details of Scotland’s new coronavirus levels system click here.
Three officers, a man and a child have been taken to hospital after a police car overturned following a chase in Glasgow.
The incident occurred around 5.35pm on Tuesday, when a police pursuit commenced after a Skoda failed to stop on Stravanan Road, Castlemilk.
During the pursuit, the police car collided with a BMW on Carmunnock Road at its junction with Craiglinn Gardens and overturned.
The blue BMW 3 series was not involved in the police pursuit.
The driver of the Skoda failed to stop and did not return to the scene.
A 39-year-old man who was driving the BMW and his ten-year-old passenger were taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow, respectively.
Three male police officers were also taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.
The road was closed for around three hours.
Chief Inspector Darren Faulds, of Glasgow’s Road Policing Unit, said: “Our enquiries into the circumstances surrounding the crash, along with the vehicle which failed to stop, are ongoing.
“I would urge anyone who may have witnessed the crash or was in the area around the time of the crash to contact police. Also, anyone with dash-cam footage which could assist our investigation should get in touch.”
As is standard procedure, the incident has been referred to the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner.
Anyone with information can contact police on 101, quoting incident number 2330 of October 27.
Ambulance staff documents ‘taken from locked office’
Whistleblower alerts MP to alleged data break-in at office in Moray.
The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) is investigating an alleged “serious” breach of personal data.
Documents about staff were allegedly taken from a locked file within a manager’s locked office in Moray.
Local MP Douglas Ross said he was contacted by a whistleblower. It was claimed the notes were read by members of staff and then discarded into a cardboard box in a store room.
The box was said to have been taken to the SAS base in Forres and “left unsecured in a garage”.
Ross, also leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “This appears to be a serious breach of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules on the safe storage of sensitive and confidential material.
“It’s very concerning to me that this has happened within what should be secure areas of SAS premises in Moray.”
He said it was “worrying” that documents had been “passed around for some time”.
SAS chief executive Pauline Howie has written to Ross, confirming that the service was alerted last month.
A spokesman for the service said: “Our information governance team were alerted to an incident involving personal information of staff which was discovered on secure ambulance service premises.
“There’s no evidence that these files have been accessed by anyone outwith the ambulance service and the files have since been removed to a secure location.
“A detailed investigation is ongoing and in line with legislative requirements. SAS has also notified the information commissioner’s office who are reviewing the incident.
“SAS has informed the employees whose information is involved, have apologised and are providing ongoing support.
“We will be reviewing all learnings from this full investigation and will implement any actions identified.”
Uniform guidance for family gatherings at Christmas must be devised between all four nations of the UK, political leaders have been urged.
Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster were warned that their governments must “accept the inevitability” that people will travel over the festive period.
The call came in a letter from the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, Wales and England – together with the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.
They said guidance cannot be made in isolation given the “interlinked” nature of life in the UK, and called for a “four nations summit” to agree a plan.
The letter states: “It therefore falls on you and your counterparts to work across governments to explore workable solutions that can enable travel to happen safely.
“To manage the implications for public health, we are urging you to hold a four nations summit to co-operate on students’ return, to agree uniform guidance on the number of people who can gather, and to explore how best to expand travel options to allow social distancing.”
It is signed by Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, as well as his Scottish counterpart Willie Rennie, Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds and Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry.
Sir Ed said: “No one country can manage this challenge in isolation. The fractured rules across the UK have already been incredibly difficult to piece together.
“We need a four nations summit to agree on one set of uniform guidance for Christmas that works for families across the UK. Ministers across Britain need to start work on it now.”
Despite the UK taking a near uniform approach to lockdown restrictions at the start of the coronavirus crisis in March, the picture across the country is now more fragmented.
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her Government is looking at phased term dates and possible testing of students, and issues of people returning home where there are vulnerable people.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said the current “firebreak” restrictions should give a pathway to Christmas “without needing a period of this severity of restraint between now and then”.
And in England, Downing Street has said it is the Government’s “ambition to ensure that people may celebrate Christmas as a family this year”.