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Covid-19 Testing: Care Sector

Volume 678: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2020

If he will publish a comparative assessment of the availability of covid-19 testing for (a) care home residents, (b) home care recipients and (c) care home staff in Scotland and England. (903970)

The UK Government, assisted by the British Army, have through six fixed testing sites, 13 mobile testing units and the Glasgow Lighthouse mega-lab significantly increased testing capacity in Scotland to respond to covid-19, in addition to NHS Scotland’s own capacity. It is for the Scottish Government to determine policy for the use of that capacity, including in respect of testing for care home residents, recipients and staff.

Some 1,431 people were discharged from Scottish hospitals into care homes by the Scottish Government. In Scotland, the proportion of care home deaths is much higher than that in England, where it is also too high. Will the Minister assure the House that when the inevitable public inquiry happens, the question of Scottish care home deaths is not lost in the wider questions about the Government’s response but is given very serious attention, because thousands of families will demand that those Scottish care home deaths are investigated?

Based on the latest figures that I have seen, although the number of covid-19 deaths in care homes in Scotland has been falling in recent weeks, it still represents around 41% of the total. That is compared with the proportion in England, which is closer to around 32%. Both of those proportions are still far too high, but what any inquiry will say is a matter for that inquiry.

When the First Minister is questioned about the high rate of care home deaths in Scotland, she merely replies that England does not count in the same way, which is not an answer. The number of care home deaths in Scotland is a national scandal. Despite that, care home staff are still not receiving the level of testing that they have been promised. The Scottish Health Minister said that all care home staff would be tested every week, yet in no week has that happened, and only around a third of staff are receiving tests. Given the fact that the UK Government deliver part of the testing regime in Scotland, will the Minister inform the House of what work is going on across both Governments to ensure that care home staff are receiving the weekly tests they were promised?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will join me in acknowledging the excellent work done by all our frontline staff, whether in the NHS, care homes or elsewhere. I encourage the Scottish Government to actively promote the fixed testing sites and the mobile testing sites that I mentioned earlier, to ensure that all care homes and care home staff can access the testing that they need.