NICOLA Sturgeon is facing calls for a dedicated public inquiry into the “national scandal” of Covid deaths in Scotland’s care homes.

The First Minister was accused of presiding over a dangerous scramble to move hundreds of elderly patients out of hospitals into homes at the start of the pandemic to free up NHS beds.

Opposition leaders at Holyrood said older people were treated like second-class citizens and problems in homes made worse by flawed official guidance.

Ms Sturgeon, who admits the transfers may have led to deaths in some cases, was yesterday confronted with more claims of bad practice related to care homes.

READ MORE: Coronavirus – what now: is this the end of the care home?

At First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw quoted Glasgow woman Sandra O’Neill whose mother died at Almond Court home in Drumchapel in April. He said Ms O’Neill had nothing but praise for the frontline staff, but she also said residents came from hospital while “clearly ill”.

Ms Sturgeon admitted it was possible that patients showing symptoms of coronavirus may have been transferred into homes in breach of official guidance.

“I cannot stand here and give a categoric assurance that no patient with symptoms was discharged… but the guidance that was in place was very clear,” she told MSPs.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard also quoted a nurse at a Lanarkshire home who said the situation had been “all one big mess”, with patients arriving from hospital without them or their next of kin being fully informed.

It also emerged that in 2014, the Scottish Government’s own ministerial task force on the future of residential care had called for 34 improvements the system, including a compulsory risk register, but only a handful of the recommendations were implemented.

Ms Sturgeon said she wanted there to be an inquiry into the pandemic, including the experience in care homes, but refused to guarantee a dedicated care home probe.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon accepts care home transfers were factor in crisis

It emerged last week that the Scottish Government oversaw the transfer of 921 delayed discharge patients from hospitals into care homes in March without testing them for Covid.

The patients, who were clinically well enough to leave hospital but had no suitable place to go, were moved in anticipation of a “tsunami” of Covid cases requiring hospitalisation.

The National Records of Scotland yesterday said the number of deaths in care homes now almost equals the number in hospitals.

Despite the death rate slowing for four consecutive weeks, total Covid deaths rose 124 to 3,379 as of May 24.

Of these, 1,749 or 46.3 per cent were in care homes and 1,760 or 46.6% in hospitals.

However academics recently warned the care home total does not include residents dying from Covid after being hospitalised.