What responsibility did the Scottish Government have for testing to be introduced into private care homes?

By reader iamsoccerdoc

Having read the above BBC report, I have to say I was really shocked that the following, from a statement by Scottish Care, was published without any comment

“We very much regret that insufficient attention was given to the needs of the care sector when compared to the preparation given to and focus upon the NHS. Social care as a whole was let down in the early stages of the pandemic, not least by the failures to introduce testing of staff and residents earlier.”

In relation to the first paragraph, the implication seems to be that as the NHS struggled to adapt in order to cope with what, at the time (ie March/ April last year) was seen as something that could very well overwhelm it (one only has to look at the experience in places like Italy to see how that might be thought), it would also take time to focus not just on itself, but on Care Homes that are not part of the NHS and are run for private profit. This is very like what I call “the baby bird” approach – that you sit about waiting for mummy and daddy to come along and stuff a nice big worm down your gob. Applied to the private care sector statement, this is very close to suggesting that in some respects the NHS (and/or govt) have primary responsibility for Care Home management of Covid. If so, then there surely have to be serious questions asked about what it is residents were paying for. Certainly we might expect liaison and advice to be given, but in terms of resources and practice that is surely the responsibility of the owners?

The second paragraph in contrast is utterly jaw dropping. Just what responsibility does govt have for testing to be introduced into private care homes. Right at the start of the Health and Safety at Work Act, there is an obligation on the employer to ensure the “health, safety and welfare at work” of their employees – not the govt, but the employer (and thus the care home owner).

I doubt very much this will happen, but I still hope there is a documentary maker somewhere who will call out the care home owners, who, in many cases, are nothing more than self-serving money grubbers who consider their residents as little more than an income stream, and who will at any and every opportunity pass their own responsibility on to anyone at all.

8 thoughts on “What responsibility did the Scottish Government have for testing to be introduced into private care homes?

  1. The H&S executive along with the statutory authorities were posted
    AWOL with regards all this matter
    FULL STOP

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  2. Scottish Care is the organisation representing the ‘independent care sector’. That might explain their keeness to blame the Scottish government.
    It seems Scottish Care maybe need to look in the mirror somewhat.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As far as I’m aware, the Scottish government’s responsibility for health and safety in private care homes, is to ensure private provision meets appropriate standards, as defined in law. So here’s a look at what I think is the appropriate legal framework. Which clearly indicates the responsibility rests with the private care provider, as well as raising questions re. the effectiveness of inspection and enforcement.

    https://www.gov.scot/publications/national-care-standards-care-homes-older-people-revised-november-2007/pages/7/

    “The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

    The Act is the basic piece of health and safety law that covers everyone who is affected by work activity. It places the burden of legal responsibility for health and safety at work with the employer.”

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  4. Community testing was stopped in early March. Even NHS staff had difficulty getting tested in March/April. The test then in use had been developed in the UK but supplies of the test were patchy due to shortages of reagents. It also turned out to be less than ideal when deployed in a real world setting. By late April PHE recommended that labs etc should stop using the tests and start using commercial kits.

    As well as problems with the actual test there were also problems with the swabs. Some batches that had been distributed to care homes had to be recalled because they were breaking off in peoples’ throats. Yet others were too big to fit into the vial containing the liquid in which the swab was to be transported to the lab. The result was that the fluid leaked during transfer to the labs.

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  5. On testing in care care homes, the Westminster government made repeated and increasingly ambitious promises during Spring and Summer 2020 and (once gain) failed to live up to them.

    Source: House of Commons Library (2020) Coronavirus: Adult social care key issues and sources. Briefing Paper Number 9019, 30 March 2021

    ‘The Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy, published on 11 MAY, stated that the Government was now “offering a COVID-19 test to every staff member and resident in every care home in England, whether symptomatic or not” and that “by 6 JUNE, every care home for the over 65s will have been offered testing for residents and staff.” On 7 June 2020, the Government announced that test kits had now been offered to every care home for over 65s or those with dementia.

    ‘On 8 JUNE 2020, the Government announced that every care home, (i.e. including for working-age adults) would now be offered testing regardless of whether residents have symptoms. On 3 JULY 2020, the Government announced that, from 6 JULY care home staff would be given coronavirus tests on a weekly basis and residents would be tested every four weeks. Initially this applied to care homes primarily looking after over 65s or those with dementia; the Government stated that it expected repeat testing to be rolled out to all care homes for working age adults in August.’

    But then the almost inevitable happened:

    ‘However, at the start of August it was reported that, under revised Government plans, regular testing would not reach all care homes for older people until 7 SEPTEMBER. Regarding the delay, a Government spokesperson was reported as saying:

    “A combination of issues have meant that a more limited number of testing kits, which are predominantly used in care homes, are currently available and we are temporarily constrained in our ability to do as much asymptomatic testing as we want.”

    Attempting to co-operate with a government like this must be a nightmare!

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  6. It’s true that the pandemic has created unforeseen operational problems, but that is why health and safety law is so important. It is intended to preempt unnecessary risk, as the private sector tends to view health and safety as an unprofitable operational concern. Otherwise there would be no need for health and safety law.

    As far as I understand things, the Scottish government’s responsibility re. private care homes, was limited to providing appropriate guidance, ensuring adequate inspection, and seeking compliance with guidance through legal enforcement.

    https://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/web-resources-container/covid-19-information-and-guidance-for-care-home-settings/

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  7. I would encourage everyone to have a look here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/daily-tests-processed-and-testing-capacity-uk-20-march-to-22-september-2020 – it gives figs for “Daily tests processed and testing capacity (UK) – swab and antibody tests: 20 March to 22 September” 2020.

    It’s quite something.

    On 20th March the UK – not any particular part, the WHOLE UK – had a testing capacity of 6127. On a PC basis that would be a capacity of around 500 for the whole of Scotland.
    The other thing is that capacity is divided around four “pillars”, which are defined as
    “Tests in the UK are carried out through a number of different routes:
    pillar 1: swab testing in Public Health England (PHE) labs and NHS hospitals for those with a clinical need, and health and care workers
    pillar 2: swab testing for the wider population, as set out in government guidance
    pillar 3: serology testing to show if people have antibodies from having had COVID-19
    pillar 4: blood and swab testing for national surveillance supported by PHE, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and research, academic, and scientific partners to learn more about the prevalence and spread of the virus and for other testing research purposes, such as the accuracy and ease of use of home testing” which you can find here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-testing-data-methodology/covid-19-testing-data-methodology-note

    On 20 March, according to the first document (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/daily-tests-processed-and-testing-capacity-uk-20-march-to-22-september-2020) there was no testing capacity under pillars 2-4 – ONLY 1.

    While the capacity on pillar 1 increases from 6127, by 7th April to 18149, it is the 10th April that pillar 2 testing comes on stream.

    By the end of the period covered, capacity has increased to almost four hundred thousand, this has taken five months. Testing is “performed by NHS Trust laboratories, Public Health England (PHE) laboratories, and the UK Lighthouse Labs Network.” (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-guidance-for-clinical-diagnostic-laboratories/laboratory-investigations-and-sample-requirements-for-diagnosing-and-monitoring-wn-cov-infection). All of these, as best I know, are under the control of Department of Health and Social Care. I will leave you to come to your own conclusion.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Just another example of the current Tory ethos – Private Profit but the Public Sector /taxpayer carries the blame / the cost .

    Care Homes were probably the best places for older more vulnerable people during a pandemic as they were ”supposed” to be well versed in dealing with winter flu outbreaks and could easily isolate residents in their rooms .

    Their major failing was in NOT applying proper care with the staff employed who were responsible for much of the transmission which killed so many !

    Liked by 1 person

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