An investigation by reporter Peter Swindon of the Sunday Post ascertained for the first time that hospital patients in Scotland who had tested positive for Covid-19 were moved to care homes. The investigation which spanned three weeks in the initial phase used Freedom of Information law to confirm there were dozens of transfers of Covid-positive patients prior to a policy change which required two negative test results before a move. Subsequent articles detailed the pressure that was put on health boards by the Scottish Government to move patients out of wards and into care homes in the early weeks of the pandemic. Further investigation ascertained that Covid-positive patients were transferred to care homes after a policy change that required two negative tests before discharge. More than 2,000 deaths in care homes have been linked to Covid-19 in Scotland. The investigation led to several front page splash articles and in-depth coverage of the issue which ran over many spreads.
Immediately after the initial article – which was widely followed up by all media outlets – there were questions for the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament which led to the health minister ordering Public Health Scotland (PHS) to carry out a wide ranging investigation into the practice of discharging hospital patients to care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic in an attempt to learn lessons. The PHS report confirmed 113 patients with Covid were moved, with 52 transferred within a week of a positive diagnosis, 38 within eight to 14 days. The report also said 3,061 untested patients were transferred between March 1 and May 31, with some moved to care homes after a policy change that required two negative tests. Amid mounting political pressure as a result of the investigation the Scottish Parliament voted for the immediate launch of a judge-led inquiry on November 4, which is likely to commence in 2021. In addition, PHS is now examining epidemiological data to identify the viral strains of care home infections to find out if they are related to viral strains identified in hospitals. This probe could provide bereaved families with definitive answers as to whether a care home outbreak which led to the death of their relative was caused by a hospital discharge.