By Alasdair Galloway
Some of you might have seen the letter I sent to the Herald – and which they didn’t publish – in a comment on John’s first day back (“Jeanne Freeman’s quick action saved many lives in care homes”). Even if you did, here it is again
The leader of Labour in Scotland, Anas Sarwar, said in Holyrood today that “even by March 26” Scottish Government “guidance still said people being discharged from the hospital did not routinely need confirmation of a negative Covid test.”. Would Mr Sarwar care to suggest where those tests might have been sourced from?
At https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/testing it can easily be established that on 20th March 2020 testing capacity, a Westminster government responsibility, for the entire UK was 6127 tests per day. By 26th March this had increased to 10949. On a per capita basis, this would have allowed Scotland 502 tests per day on 20th March, and 897 by 26th March.
This would have been required to cover all the needs of the NHS in Scotland, doctors, nurses, care home staff, carers etc. By 21st April, testing capacity in the UK was 48,273, and thus, per capita, 3958 in Scotland per day – 440 percent more than on 26th March, or almost 800 percent more than on 20th March, when guidance changed.
More egregiously, I have never heard Mr Sarwar suggest an alternative to removing elderly patients from hospital to care homes. Just what is the alternative he has in mind? If patients were not to be moved out of hospital without tests – which the above shows were in highly constrained supply – would he have been content to see elderly people remain in hospitals which, in a matter of days if experience in France and Italy was anything to go by, would have been filled to the rafters with Covid patients?
Lastly the Westminster government lost their case last week on the grounds that their policy not to isolate people discharged from hospitals to care homes in the first weeks of the pandemic in spring 2020 without testing was, the High Court held, “irrational”. A Freedom of Information request published in June 2021 makes clear that in contrast Scottish Government guidance in March 2020 to care homes “recommended all admissions to be isolated for 7 days and if known to have contact with COVID patients for 14 days. Both clinical decisions around discharge and risk assessments are undertaken locally by health and social care professionals. There is no involvement of Scottish Ministers.”
Now I don’t intend to rehash the argument here – which is actually fairly simple – if you are going to insist elderly hospital patients would only be transferred if they had tested negative, then you have to explain two things. First where do you find the tests to do this when on March 26 the UK had a testing capacity of just over 10k to do the entire country – all the doc tors, nurses, carers etc. If you recognise that problem then, where do you put them if not a care home? By the side of the road to play the spoons until some kind soul takes them in?
Moreover, unlike the advice in England, the Scottish Government did recommend isolation for 7 days even if no symptoms and 14 if there were symptoms.
My point now is that none of this is rocket science. ALL of it is easily available with a pretty simple Google search. It is all public domain, yet still the paradigm that the deaths in care homes were the fault of the Scottish Government persists.
Why? Is it incompetence? Do I have such a poor opinion of Jackie Baillie for one, that she – or her staff – are incapable of doing a simple Google search and learning the facts of how few tests were available at the time these old people were being transferred? Lets be clear, this is not just putting a particular spin on a piece of information or even a fact. This is just lying by omission.
And on that point, lets note Reporting Scotland tonight which claimed in its late-night broadcast that Jim McColl accused the First Minister of lying – “A former shipyard owner has accused the First Minister of lying” led Reporting Scotland at 10.30 tonight. Jim McColl’s version was that the deal did not save 400 jobs as only 160 were employed at Ferguson’s at the time – “I think she was a bit rattled”, and got mixed up he said. Moreover, he then goes back on “lied”, but of course by that time we are 2 minutes into the report. How likely is it that what people will remember – and take away – is that Sturgeon lied.
In 2014 we were accustomed to almost anything being spun as bad news for independence – some good examples can be found here https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2013/04/bbc-the-new-hammer-of-the-scots/
Even the Nick Robinson “he never answered” stooshie was largely about interpretation – basically Salmond didn’t give Robinson the kind of response he was looking for and could have used against the independence movement – that Salmond thought he knew better than the electorate. Salmond’s response though was that since the warnings by these captains of industry had been issued, support for independence had actually risen – ie its not what I think Nick, the electorate seem to have their own view (of course Alex being Alex rubbed a bit – quite a lot actually – of salt in the wound by citing the BBC’s role in releasing news of (the then) RBS Group intention to move their Head Office from Edinburgh to London too early (should only have been released when the Stock Market opened).
However, what we are up against is not only spin – which there will always be as facts never speak for themselves but have to be interpreted – but actual lies “intentionally false statements” whether by omission or otherwise.
This is perhaps an indication of how rattled they are, but it still a worrying development as it ceases to be a matter of putting out one’s own version of events, but of correcting the statements which actually are false, or pointing to facts which have been excluded.
But reverting to the claims of letting Covid run riot in care homes, consider this conversation which have taken place between Jeanne Freeman (JF) and her senior civil servant (CS) just before 26th March.
CS. Sorry to bother you Cabinet Secy, but we have a very serious problem. There are a number of elderly patients in hospital with no clinical need to be there. If we leave them in hospital, they will be surrounded by Covid patients very quickly we expect, but their discharge is delayed by having nowhere to send them at the present time. What would the Cabinet Secretary wish to do?
JF Well, we cannot leave them in hospital, and I would think that arranging new care packages at the present time will be very difficult. In fact we will be doing well to keep the existing packages going. Could we send them to Care Homes?
CS Well yes, Cabinet Secy we could do that, but the problem is that because of the terrible shortage of tests it is very likely that only a few of them could be tested. We were warned by Patrick Vallance that even those who are asymptomatic could still be infected, but we don’t have the tests to be sure.
JF Is that not a risk we have to take. We really cannot have them in hospital. Leaving to one side that they are taking up beds which will be needed for Covid patients, being in hospital is probably the best place for them to catch Covid and we know how serious that is for the elderly.
CS So are your instructions to pursue transfer to care homes, tested or not Cabinet Secy?
JF Yes, but subject to them being isolated at care homes. What is the advice from Public Health? Seven days if asymptomatic and fourteen if showing symptoms?
I wonder what Jackie would have done? Of course, not being in government, it’s not her problem just her opportunity to whine and unctuously wring her hands.
“Power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”