Health Secretary admits hospital staff not being regularly tested

Not all hospital workers are being regularly tested for Covid-19 and there is no fixed timescale for when they will be, the Scottish health secretary has admitted.
Jeane Freeman has said not all hospital workers are being regularly tested for Covid-19.Jeane Freeman has said not all hospital workers are being regularly tested for Covid-19.
Jeane Freeman has said not all hospital workers are being regularly tested for Covid-19.

Jeane Freeman also said care home worker testing is still “not happening fast enough”.

Ms Freeman said testing hospital staff was part of the process of re-opening the NHS fully and safely, but could not give a timescale as health boards were still in the process of planning how to restart more of their services.

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She also said that no health board had moved as fast as she wanted them to, to carry out care home staff tests.

Her words were seized on by Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservative leader, who said Ms Freeman had “lost her grip” on the coronavirus crisis.

Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Ms Freeman said the government was looking at testing hospital staff in certain wards first. “Cancer UK, for example, has asked for what they describe as the creation of a 'safe space'. That would be for the increase in cancer work that is part of the remobilising of the NHS and we would look at testing there for both staff and possibly patients.”

The health secretary said discussions were also under way about testing patients before surgery, as well as all staff involved in a patient's treatment.

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She also said that work was being done to ascertain whether the 908 patients who were found to have Covid-19 after being admitted to hospital for other conditions, were infected in hospital or before they were admitted. A total of 218 of these patients died from coronavirus between the middle of March to June 3.

Asked about the regular testing of all care home workers, Ms Freeman said this was not yet being done consistently or quickly enough across Scotland.

She said health boards had been testing in homes where there were active cases of Covid-19, though she added some boards had gone further and were testing workers in homes with no cases.

“Not all of them have moved as fast enough as I need them to,” she said and revealed that the government will publish weekly data from every health board of how many care home staff and residents have been tested as of this week.

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“It is not correct to say (testing) is not happening. It is correct that it is not happening consistently in a planned way across the country, which is precisely why I issued that letter of instruction to every health board chief executive and have said that every week I will publish that information.”

However Ms Freeman was described by Jackson Carlaw as having “completely lost her grip on the Covid crisis.”

He added: “The SNP government promised to dramatically increase hospital staff testing but still, weeks later, not only is nothing in place, Ms Freeman cannot tell us when it will be.

“Ms Freeman couldn’t even give the public basic information about where patients who contracted Covid in hospital died.

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“The SNP abandoned care homes to be ravaged by Covid, they appear to have done the same thing to hospitals also.

“Jeane Freeman’s excuses keep getting thinner meanwhile thousands of tests are unused each day. Nicola Sturgeon says she takes responsibility for her government’s approach to Covid and I agree – the First Minister is responsible for these catastrophic failures.”

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