A FORMER Scottish Government official believes a coronavirus pandemic “would be quite useful” in clearing delayed discharge levels because “people would be taken out of the system”.

Professor June Andrews recognised her comments were “horrific” but gave an honest assessment of the potential consequences of a large-scale coronavirus outbreak.

Prof Andrews is a former director of the Scottish Government’s Centre for Change and Innovation. She was also previously the Scottish Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing and the director of nursing at NHS Forth Valley.

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Speaking at Holyrood’s public audit committee, she said: “If you’re on the board of a care home company, a pandemic is one of things you think about as a potential damage to your business because of the number of older people it’s going to take out of the system.

“Curiously, ripping off the sticking plaster, in a hospital that has 92 delayed discharges, a pandemic would be quite useful because your hospital would work because these people would be taken out of the system.”

She added: “That sounds like it’s a horrific thing to say – but it is the case that somehow or other, we’ve put people in the wrong places by not having the kind of strategic views that we should have.

“That means that politicians who don’t want to think about bad things before the election, need to think about putting income tax up even higher in order to pay for more care in care homes and they need to think about whether they reinstate geriatric hospitals.”

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Dr Lewis Morrison, Scottish chair of the British Medical Association, told the committee that “after the winter we have had and with the prospect of a coronavirus outbreak”, there is “potentially a clear big mismatch” between the health and social care needs and targets health leaders are asked to meet.

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He added: “I actually  think that one of the ill wins if we do have a significant viral outbreak is that I think it will teach us, probably some hard lessons, but it’s going to teach us some very, very important things about our services – which we must learn from.”