HEALTH Secretary Jeane Freeman believes hospital patients may not have been discharged to care homes without being tested if officials had known more about the virus at the time.  

Ms Freeman is under pressure after Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw wrote to Nicola Sturgeon – telling her the public has lost confidence in her Health Secretary after it emerged that almost 1,000 hospital patients were discharged to care homes before compulsory Covid-19 testing was enforced, significantly more than previously stated.  

The figures are more than three times higher than the previous numbers announced by Ms Freeman, which she has now indicated was incorrect and has apologised for. 

Nicola Sturgeon admitted that there will be “very legitimate and hard questions for us all to reflect on”, when she was pressed on the issue in Holyrood. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Tories claim public has no confidence in Health Secretary over care homes figures

Ms Freeman was quizzed by Labour MSP Neil Bibby if she regretted  authorising the purchase of 50 beds to move untested patients into 10 different care homes in Inverclyde. 

Ms Freeman said: "As part of our planning for Covid-19, we asked all health boards for their mobilisation plans in order to make sure that we were ready for worst-case scenarios. 

"Our plan was to create a bed capacity in the health service of 3,000 beds and to double the number of ICU beds. 

"Inverclyde secured an additional 50 care home places to be called upon if required – 40 places have been called upon to date, covering eight care homes. There are 14 care homes in Inverclyde – the total number of deaths in those 14 is 35.” 

She added: “I signed off those final plans, absolutely, but they came from those partnerships. 

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"There are many decisions, I am sure, that as we look back, we had known at the time what we know now about the nature of the virus, we would have perhaps have made different decisions at the time. 

"We were facing what we anticipated to be a significant surge in demand on our health service." In order to minimise the number of deaths there, we took a number of decisions to create capacity for that health service. We have fortunately not reached a position where that full capacity has ever been used." 

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Earlier Nicola Sturgeon came to the defence of her Health Secretary, telling opponents that there are also risks in not moving patients out of hospitals. 

She said: “Every single one of us who has been in a position of taking decisions to deal with this crisis will have made mistakes, I have no doubt about that – that's in the nature of dealing with an unprecedented situation and dealing with it without the hindsight that many are now trying to apply. 

“The responsibility of dealing with this will bear heavily on me for probably the rest of my life. 

“What I want to make clear here is at every stage, based on the best information and knowledge he had, we have tried to do the right things.” 

She added: “I think care homes, undoubtedly there will be very legitimate and hard questions for us all to reflect on – that is how we learn. Some of what people say now fails to take account of the situation we were dealing with. 

“I hear people now saying care home residents should not have been discharged from hospital, and yet back then, we were waiting for a tsunami potentially of coronavirus cases going into our hospitals. 

“If we had not tried to get people who were not medically requiring to be out of hospital out of there, that would also have exposed people to very significant risks.” 

Minutes of a meeting of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 advisory group on April 2 show that experts were still discussing trying to understand the transmission of the virus in hospitals at the same time as patients were being moved out of them to care homes. 

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Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, Alex Cole-Hamilton, said: “Why were the Scottish Government mobilising older vulnerable people out of hospitals and into care homes in huge numbers when experts were still trying to ascertain how the virus was being transmitted within hospitals?  

“We know that care homes were raising problems and were not properly equipped to deal with potentially infected people arriving. 

“These are hard questions, but the government owes care home residents, staff and worried family members clear and honest answers.” 

Addressing Ms Freeman in Holyrood, Tory health spokesperson, Miles Briggs said: "This is a matter of competence, honesty and transparency and the Cabinet Secretary has failed on all three.

"Given all that we now know, does the Cabinet Secretary not realise she has lost the confidence of the public?"

Ms Freeman said she has issued a letter to opposition leaders "apologising for any mistake that I made".

She added: "In terms of whether or not the public have confidence in the job that I am doing, that is, in my view, for the public to decide.

"I am focused on doing what I believe to be the right thing, making the right decisions based on the information I have at the time when I have to make those decisions.

"That does not mean, I would never claim that there are decisions that have been made that if I had the information now that I have now, might have been different decisions."