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Sturgeon admits ‘flaws and deficiencies’ in pandemic care home guidance

There were “flaws and deficiencies” in the Scottish Government’s guidance around care homes early in the pandemic, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The former first minister said care homes were “one of the most important” parts of the pandemic response to scrutinise as she spoke of regrets that her government did not get everything right.

Towards the end of her evidence session at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry chaired by Lady Hallett, Ms Sturgeon was asked about the discharge of hospital patients who had not tested negative for Covid-19 into care homes.

She was questioned by lawyer Kevin McCaffrey, representing the Scottish Covid Bereaved group.

The former first minister said: “I do not think we got everything right around care homes and I deeply regret that.

“There were undoubtedly flaws and deficiencies in that guidance, but the advice at the time was isolation – keeping people as separate as possible – was the best way to protect people in care homes, and clearly that didn’t have the effect that we wanted it to have.”

Ms Sturgeon went on to say she wished she could “turn back the clock” to prevent the loss of lives in care homes due to Covid-19.

“I would do everything in my power and I wish I could turn the clock back and do different things that would have reduced the loss of life in care homes,” the former first minister said.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
The former first minister spoke of her deep regret (Jane Barlow/PA)

She added that leaving people in hospitals would not be without risk.

“I desperately wish we could have had the ability to do things in a way that didn’t result in the outcome that did materialise,” she said.

Earlier in the inquiry, former health secretary Jeane Freeman said she would have lifelong regret around any care home deaths caused by the Scottish Government’s decisions.

The government’s response in the adult care sector was not adequate, she admitted.

Ms Freeman said that while 348 care homes had outbreaks of Covid-19, “some care homes that received discharges did not have outbreaks”.

“I am not saying that the discharge from hospital without a test had no impact, what I am saying is that it was one of the factors,” she added.