Health Secretary demonised again to satisfy opposition parties’ bloodlust

It’s an image never far from the minds of Herald or BBC reporters, handy for any imagined crisis in NHS Scotland and particularly useful, they think, if babies or old folk have died.

The Tusker’s followers south of the border tell us they are shocked to see this approach to reporting and that BBC England has been very effective in making sure that most of their neighbours have no idea who is responsible for anything down there.

The Herald report is, of course, just the Sunday Post report, regurgitated, so the same evidence to rebut it will do. Apologies to regulars but here it is again:

An emerging but substantial body of evidence that care home outbreaks were triggered by agency staff working in more than one home and often forced to work when they had symptoms:

  1. The charitable MHA with a presence in Scotland did research into its own homes and discovered this: Large numbers of staff could have been unknowingly spreading coronavirus through care homes, according to the UK’s largest charitable care home provider. Data from MHA shows 42% of its staff members who recently tested positive were not displaying symptoms. Nearly 45% of residents who had a positive test were also asymptomatic. The MHA Chief Executive said: I think it’s very difficult not to see that the only real way that this can have come into our homes is through staff picking it up, just through the community contacts they would have had. I think that is what is so hard for all our staff, because they care. But if they don’t know they’ve contracted the virus, how can you manage this?
  2. We know from BBC Scotland’s own report that the Skye care home outbreak was associated with ‘a large dependency on agency staff‘:
  3. Former BBC Scotland Head of News, John Boothman, now at the Times, wrote: HC-One, Britain’s largest care home chain and the operator of Home Farm, faces allegations that it paid insufficient heed to the [Scottish] government’s lockdown by parachuting workers in from as far away as Kent, 645 miles away, to plug staff shortages in a sector where pay is notoriously poor.
  4. An ONS study of 9 081 care homes in England found this: These emerging findings reveal some common factors in care homes with higher levels of infections amongst residents.These include prevalence of infection in staff, some care home practices such as more frequent use of bank or agency nurses or carers, and some regional differences (such as higher infection levels within care homes in London and the West Midlands). There is some evidence that in care homes where staff receive sick pay, there are lower levels of infection in residents.

18 thoughts on “Health Secretary demonised again to satisfy opposition parties’ bloodlust

  1. Some supporting information.

    “The only study yet published on COVID-19 in care homes (21) is a report of the spread of an outbreak through an American care home, finding that the virus spread quickly among the majority of residents, staff, and visitors, with 81 cases among the approximately 130 residents.

    The authors identified the following factors that contributed to the outbreak:
    • staff continuing to work while symptomatic;
    • staff members working in more than one facility;
    • inadequate adherence to standard droplet and contact precautions, and eye protection recommendations;
    • poor infection control practices due, in part, to inadequate supplies of personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser;
    • delayed recognition of cases, limited testing availability, and difficulty identifying COVID-19 cases based on signs and symptoms alone.

    These factors, although from a single site, closely match the findings of the available literature.”


    1. Thanks for the link.

      The paper includes this notable and surprising comment:

      “Case isolation: Recommendations from Public Health England have included advice to isolate symptomatic patients. We did not identify any evidence on the effectiveness of this for viral infections in care homes.”


      1. A good essay here by Adelina Comas-Herrera on covid19 and its effects on care homes.

        “This pandemic has shown that countries that experienced Sars and Mers, such as Hong Kong and South Korea, have done better at preventing and controlling Covid-19 in care homes with frequent staff training and good stocks of PPE.

        In Europe, Denmark is a good example of a care system with strong public and political support, highly qualified staff and good local coordination between public health, the healthcare system and social care. Its modern care home model is based on the idea of apartments with some communal areas, and this seems to have helped contain the impact of Covid-19 among residents.

        Having rehabilitation hospitals helped Austria, Germany and some regions of Spain , as they were easily converted into quarantine facilities where people could be discharged to from hospital, reducing pressure on care homes to admit people who potentially had the virus. They also provided isolation facilities for care homes that did not have enough capacity.

        The pandemic also throws into stark relief how care homes, especially those in older buildings, were never designed with infection control in mind and do not make good isolation facilities. It is also questionable whether many even offer good living facilities. It is important to be realistic about the capabilities for care homes to act as quarantine facilities; the evidence suggests this has been vastly overestimated, with tragic consequences particularly in the UK.”


  2. I would add that i think it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to successfully isolate an old person with dementia in a care home.

    NHS Scotland will have known this and continued with the clinical decisions to discharge people from hospital to care homes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not quite on topic but related.
    It is being reported in England that Public Health England is to be ditched and replaced almost immediately by another, equally centralised body based on a German system for dealing with pandemics. A good idea, eh??
    Interesting is the England-centred BBC’s reporting of this issue which contains the following:
    “It is easy to point the finger at PHE, but it is an executive agency accountable to the secretary of state, Matt Hancock.
    Decisions in March were made in collaboration with ministers and the chief medical and scientific advisers. Sources point out that PHE was never set up to be a body responsible for mass community testing and that what’s needed now is an organisation fully focused on pandemic planning.
    A full examination of who is responsible and culpable for which policies will have to wait for an independent inquiry – whenever that takes place.”
    Not exactly the same style as we’re getting used to north of the border?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. The army has already been ditched from mobile testing units. Those taking over include G4S, with predictable results.

    “In Manchester, an outbreak of 12 cases at the Royal Mail depot on Oldham Road resulted in the city council following its usual procedure in seeking urgent mass testing of the workforce via a mobile unit.

    However new provider G4S was not deployed for four days and when it arrived, the firm said the terms of its contract with government meant it could only test people until 6pm.

    That meant the depot’s substantial night shift would be left out.

    Manchester town hall had to quickly escalate the situation to the top of the Department of Health and Social Care, which oversees the contract, before full testing was implemented at the site on Friday.

    In Oldham, meanwhile, the council had been told a mobile testing unit was being brought onto a site in Shaw last Tuesday, although it wasn’t clear which company would be providing it.

    The council then advertised its presence to local residents, but the unit did not show up.”

    Liked by 2 people


    “Oldham is a town on the verge of a full local lockdown. Not that you’d know if you glimpsed its bars and pubs.

    On Saturday night, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) gave us exclusive access to a police patrol team that’s working with licensed venues.

    Their job: to make sure they are following COVID-19 guidelines.

    The bars we visited were restricting the numbers allowed in but were either at, or close to, capacity….

    …An undercover Sky News team revealed earlier this week that nine out of 10 licensed venues in Greater Manchester were not following government guidelines by collecting customer details for contact tracing.

    It’s difficult to police that particular guideline in England because it’s not mandatory by law.”

    Of course, we have our own irresponsible idiot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Curious sam, is that link still available your end or have you just prompted the “own irresponsible idiot” to close the fire shutters ?
      Page not found…


  6. An SNP minister will be demonised every week till May’s Holyrood election.
    Accompanied by an attack on a Scot Gov. Policy.

    Kall KayE’s back with her frantic voice desperately trying to cajoul listeners into demanding senior school pupils wear masks in school. No doubt to be supplied by Scot Gov.
    No doubt the presenter has penciled in her diary a phone in topic of “Has your school recieved it’s facemasks yet?”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Re Willie Rennie this is what he thinks and says.

    The professor claimed infection from south of the border was a significant risk but provided no evidence for such a claim.



    “Workers at a factory in Northampton at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak were told they would be paid less than £100 per week if they had to self-isolate, making it difficult for many to comply, their representatives have claimed.

    Bosses at the Greencore site, where M&S sandwiches are prepared, acknowledged that many staff were entitled to no more than the statutory sick pay rate of £95.85, as at countless workplaces around the UK, if they followed instructions to self-isolate.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reminder. SAGE minutes record that scientific opinion was of the view that there was nothing to be gained by imposing border checks and restrictions.


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