Scottish Government urged to show discharges to care homes were 'lawful'

The Scottish Government is being urged to provide evidence to show that patients transferred from hospitals to care homes during the coronavirus pandemic were moved lawfully.

Patients were discharged into care homes at the beginning of the pandemic
Patients were discharged into care homes at the beginning of the pandemic

The Scottish Government is being urged to provide evidence to show that patients transferred from hospitals to care homes during the coronavirus pandemic were moved lawfully.

The Law Society of Scotland said it was a "startling omission" that such information was not in a Public Health Scotland report on the issue.

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With such information not being available, Adrian Ward of the Law Society said he was "deeply concerned" about whether people's rights had been upheld, particularly for patients who could not or did not consent to being moved.

According to the Law Society, of the 4,807 patients discharged between March 1 and May 31, 272 had dementia, 145 suffered from delirium and 112 lacked sufficient capacity to consent to testing for Covid-19.

Mr Ward, convener of the Law Society of Scotland's mental health and disability subcommittee, said: "It is a startling omission by Public Health Scotland in its 58-page report to have no account or analysis of the legal basis for transferring those patients.

"With such a lack of information, we are deeply concerned about whether the rights of these individuals have been upheld, particularly any who lacked capacity to give valid consent.

"There are a number of questions that need answers. How many of these patients were assessed as being competent to consent to the transfer? How many did so? Was their consent properly documented?”

It raised the issue after last month's report showed more than 100 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 were discharged from hospitals into care homes without first receiving a negative test.

This happened 113 times between March 1 and May 31, Public Health Scotland found.

Between March 1 and April 21 there were 3,599 discharges from hospitals to care homes, with the majority (81.9%) not tested for coronavirus.

Speaking at the time the report was published, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it showed that when other factors such as the size of a care home were factored in, "hospital discharges were not found to have contributed to a significantly higher risk of an outbreak".