Care home residents treated like 'reptile exhibits' Scottish Covid Inquiry hears

Families demanded justice for their loved ones during the opening of the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry ITV News Correspondent Louise Scott reports

Care residents were compared to "exhibits in a reptile house" because of the tight coronavirus restrictions placed on them, the first day of the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry has heard.

Amber Galbraith KC was speaking on behalf of Care Home Relatives Scotland (CHRS) recounted a story of a resident who was "physically restrained" from walking towards her daughter for a cuddle during restrictions in care homes as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Ms Galbraith said: “A carer was able to sit beside her and hold her hand, but not her daughter. What is that, if not discrimination?

She compared care home residents’ experience of restrictions where they may have seen relatives only through a window to being “an exhibit”.

She said: “Perhaps they would be paraded out behind glass like an exhibit at a reptile museum or a prisoner.”

Bereaved relatives Alan Inglis (left), Margaret Waterton (right), and lead solicitor for the Scottish Covid Bereaved, Aamer Anwar (centre). Credit: PA

Chaired by Lord Brailsford, it will investigate the response by the Scottish Government to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first phase of hearings will look at the health and social care impacts of the pandemic while later phases will look at education and young people, business and financial and welfare support.

In a statement issued outside the inquiry, Aamer Anwar, lead solicitor for the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, said the inquiry must be “fearless in raising its voice for the truth”.

He said: “The Scottish Covid Bereaved demand that all the witnesses who appear at the inquiry must speak with absolute candour and are brutally honest.”

Mr Anwar spoke alongside Alan Inglis whose asthmatic son died in prison alone after testing positive for Covid-19.

Bereaved relative Alan Inglis (left) and the lead solicitor for the Scottish Covid Bereaved, Aamer Anwar. Credit: PA

Mr Inglis said he son, 34, was never seen by a nurse and died “without help, without dignity”.

David Di Paola, a solicitor representing CrossReach, a social care organisation operated by the Church of Scotland, told the inquiry in his opening statement how the sector had already been underfunded as a result of “years of underinvestment”.

He criticised the Scottish Government’s approach to implementing guidelines and rules.

Mr Di Paola said sector representatives had to intervene to stop rules late on a Friday from coming into place by the following Monday.

The organisation also had issues with sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) due to the unprecedented demand for it.

Mr Di Paola said some companies were charging seven times more than they generally would.

CrossReach also had incidents when children in their care were prevented from seeing members of their families.

The organisation also suffered “significant financial pressures” such as income shortfalls, a rise in insurance premiums and spending on agency staff.

Speaking on behalf of Scottish ministers, Geoffrey Mitchell KC said questions had arisen about whether the suffering was “too great”.

He said: "The Scottish Government is too well aware of the loss and suffering experienced in that (health and social care) sector, and in Scotland as a whole.

“On behalf of the Scottish Government, I would like to recognise that loss.

“This pain, suffering, sacrifice and endurance is recognised, understood and acknowledged by the Scottish Government."

The inquiry before Lord Brailsford continues.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...