Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith
A total of 123 hospital patients in Scotland who tested positive for Covid-19 were discharged into care homes from March 1 to May 31, a study from Public Health Scotland has found.
Between these dates, there were 5,204 discharges from NHS hospitals to care homes, relating to 4,807 individuals, which accounted for 5.3% of all hospital discharges during the same period.
The study also showed that between March 1 and April 21 there were 3,599 discharges from hospitals to care homes, with the majority (81.9%) not tested for coronavirus, meaning the total could be far higher.
Of the 650 who were tested, 78 had received a positive result while in hospital.
Between April 22 and May 31, there were 1,605 discharges from hospitals to care homes.
The majority (1,493 – 93%) were tested for Covid-19, in line with changes in clinical guidance.
Of these, 1,215 tested negative and 278 tested positive. Of those who tested positive, 233 had a negative test result before discharge.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman commissioned the report in August to identify and report on discharges from hospitals to care homes during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Freeman said: "This is the biggest public health crisis we have faced in our lifetimes and the impact on care homes around the world has been profound. Every life lost to the virus is a tragedy and a loss that will be deeply grieved by their loved ones."
She added: "I commissioned this report because it is right that residents, families, staff, and Parliament, have accurate data and independent analysis on the transfer of patients to care homes and the impact that had in those care homes.
"Care home staff have a critical frontline role and I want to pay tribute to all staff involved for their compassionate and skilled work to overcome the many challenges presented by this pandemic.
"The data from this report gives us a better understanding of the impact of discharges on outbreaks in care homes.
"We will be taking forward the recommendations that PHS make in their report, and we will continue to adapt our guidance and the steps we are taking to protect care home staff and residents in line with the latest data, scientific evidence and clinical advice."
The report states: "It is important to note that there are valid clinical reasons for individuals not to be tested prior to discharge, relating to their capacity to consent to testing and avoiding causing distress, and to appropriateness of testing, e.g. in end of life care situations."
Nicola Sturgeon said the Public Health Scotland report on care homes concludes that allowing for other factors, such as the size of a care home, “hospital discharges were not found to have contributed to a significantly higher risk of an outbreak”.
Quoting directly from the report, the First Minister said: “The analysis does not find statistical evidence that hospital discharges of any kind were associated with care home outbreaks.”
But she added: “Nothing in it detracts from the tragedy of the deaths that have occurred in care homes over the course of the pandemic, and nothing ever will detract from the heartbreak of those bereaved.”
She said Public Health Scotland would now be carrying out further work to give a more detailed understanding of Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes.