Covid care home deaths: UK acted unlawfully and Scottish Government just went along with the Tories – Ian Murray MP

In the latest shameful instalment of ‘how low can the Conservative government stoop’, we now know that ministers broke the law by failing to protect more than 20,000 elderly and disabled care homes residents who died after contracting Covid.

They claim to have put a “protective ring” around the most vulnerable people, but it turns out that this was in fact thrown around themselves.

Yesterday’s High Court ruling has proven that care homes in England weren’t so much protected as abandoned: on PPE, testing, and reporting cases.

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Alarm bells were sounded, including repeatedly by Labour Leader Keir Starmer, but ministers ignored them. They cannot claim they weren’t warned at the time and now they cannot claim to have acted to save lives.

While the ruling on discharging untested patients from hospital to care homes may relate to England, we know that the SNP government was in lockstep with the Tories here.

Scotland’s care home residents and the staff who cared for them were all failed during the pandemic.

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It took until late April after the Covid outbreak for it to become a requirement for patients to have two negative tests before leaving hospital. More than 3,500 elderly patients were discharged to care homes before then and only 650 of them had been tested. Of that total, 68 patients tested positive and were sent to care homes without getting a negative result.

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High Court rules discharging Covid-19 patients into care homes 'unlawful' in lan...
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A nurse wearing PPE looks through a window of a door lead to a segregated part of a care home as the Covid pandemic raged in April 2020 (Picture: Frank Augstein, AP)

Across the UK, lives were lost due to botched governments’ guidance and human rights were infringed on a routine basis.

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Based on the ruling in England, what happened in Scotland under the SNP may well have been unlawful.

This Scottish Government has long undervalued care and this tragedy is the result.

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A year ago, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie MSP was challenging the SNP over the transfer of patients from hospitals to care homes during Covid.

Yet patients are still dying at shocking rates two years on. Have they learned nothing?

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The disregard with which Scotland’s two governments have approached the transfer of patients into care homes is appalling.

We know that the Scottish Government intervened, as they did with many things, to delay the publication of Covid deaths in care homes until after last year’s Holyrood elections. Surprise surprise.

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And we know that ministers did their best to cover up government errors. Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers cannot evade scrutiny anymore.

In Scotland, we may be saddled with the most secretive government anyone has known, but enough is enough. From missing official papers to refusing Freedom of Information requests, they have been found out.

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But when will they give bereaved relatives the answers and apologies they so desperately deserve? Families deserve better and ministers must be held to account.

While the rest of the country begins to return to normality, our care service is being left behind.

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Councils are primarily responsible for funding social care and the Scottish Government has decimated council budgets over the last decade. It amounts to hundreds of millions in Edinburgh alone.

The price of those cuts is a lack of support for those that most need it in our city.

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So, when you vote next Thursday remember who is responsible for this catastrophe and the lack of support and funding for social care.

Ian Murray is Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South