Sorry, Jeane Freeman but this is not the assurance we were given - comment

The decision to discharge Covid-positive patients from hospital into care homes early in the pandemic is now accepted by all as a mistake, and one which almost certainly had tragically grave consequences.

Jeane Freeman
Jeane Freeman

While we must await the official inquiry and it is right that we remain focused on tackling the second wave, The Scotsman has repeatedly said families needed assurance that nothing similar could ever happen again.

For further care home outbreaks to have been found to be linked a similar practice would be unforgiveable.

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It is easy to see therefore why the comments by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman on Sunday have caused so much concern.

She said it was “entirely right and proper” for doctors to discharge coronavirus patients without the required two negative tests to care homes if it wa s deemed necessary.

“If and where older people are being discharged from hospital i nto a care home or back into their own home without the two negative tests for coronavirus that we have in our policy position, that will be a clinical decision made by a clinical team and the social work team that are working with that elderly person and their family,” she told the BBC.

That sounds very much like buck passing, and once again a recipe for confusion. A policy which can be interpreted differently by different people is no policy at all.

Ms Freeman stresses that the two test lock would only be over-ridden in “exceptional circumstances” but who is deciding what an exceptional circumstance is? Pretty much everything about this outbreak has been exceptional and the NHS will surely be under exceptional pressure this winter once again.

What is to stop this exception becoming the norm?

It is also, as Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon pointed out, an impossible position to reconcile with the restrictions placed on families.

“Thousands of older and disabled people living in care homes have been forbidden from even talking to their loved one through the window, yet the Scottish Government is allowing residents to bring the virus through the back door,” she said yesterday. "This must end today.”

We agree, we cannot risk another scandal this winter.

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