Doctor whose mum nearly died in care home says Scotland guidance ‘immoral’

A doctor has claimed his mother was left for dead as a result of Scottish government guidance on treatment for care home residents.

The cardiologist, who asked not to be named, has described official advice discouraging hospital transfer for care home residents as “immoral”.

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James Matthews (left) is seen speaking to the doctor (right) who nearly lost his mother to coronavirus

The Scottish Government insists it has never advised that care home residents should not be transferred to hospital. But critics have accused it of trying to rewrite history.

Speaking to Sky News, the 44 year-old said his mother only received life-saving hospital treatment after he urged for her to be transferred.

He said: “It’s one of the darkest things I’ve seen in my 11 years practising medicine. The care home said hospital transfers for patients from a nursing home with COVID-19 was not something they were allowed to do. For reasons that are completely unclear to me, there’s been this blanket decision.

“There is no doubt in my mind that lives have been lost because of this. What you’re doing is taking the most vulnerable individuals in our society and you’re standing back and almost rolling the dice. I think it’s immoral.”

Sky News contacted the Edinburgh GP practice which makes clinical decisions on residents at the nursing home in question.

When asked about the government guidance on hospital transfers for care home residents, a spokesman said: “I interpreted that guidance as saying we should be avoiding sending people to hospital.”

On 13 March, the Scottish government issued clinical guidance on managing COVID-19 cases for nursing home and residential care residents, which included the following advice: “It is not advised that residents in long term care are admitted to hospital for ongoing management but are managed within their current setting.”

The guidance was updated and changed on 15 May, stating: “Every effort should be made to deliver care and treatment to individuals within their homely setting.

“Where this is not possible and in the best interests of the individual, a transfer to hospital may be necessary to meet their care needs and in keeping with their choices.”

In response to the doctor’s claims, a Scottish government spokesman said: “The Scottish government has from the outset taken firm action to protect care home staff and residents. The reported claim is not true.

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The Scottish government said it has never discouraged for care home residents with COVID-19 to not go to hospital

“Our guidance has never advised that care home residents should not be transferred to hospital. Decisions about care and treatment, including hospital admission, should always be based on an individual clinical basis, based on the person’s best interests and in consultation with the individual or their families and representatives.

“Where someone is receiving ongoing stable long-term care it is advised that this be managed in their current residence if possible.”

Sky News subsequently asked how the 13 March guidance squares with their response that they never advised that care home residents should not be transferred to hospital.

A spokesman replied: “Our guidance has been consistent that care home residents have and will be admitted to hospital if that is the clinical advice.”

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Ian Murray, shadow Scottish secretary and Labour MP for Edinburgh South, told Sky News: “The suggestion there was no advice against hospital transfers appears to be a direct contradiction of the 13 March guidance.

“Who can say how many lives might have been saved if there wasn’t this blanket guidance in place. The Scottish government don’t even keep records of how many care home COVID patients have been admitted to hospital.”

“If there is now an attempt to pretend that the guidance meant anything other than to stop, or at least limit, hospital admissions from care homes then that’s a gross insult to care home residents, staff and the medical practitioners charged with following and interpreting that guidance.”