HEALTH boards which fail to deliver the Scottish Government’s policy of routinely testing care home staff for coronavirus are to be named and shamed after embarrassing Nicola Sturgeon.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman yesterday ordered board chief executives to send her new detailed plans for delivering the policy by 3pm today.

She told them their current plans lacked “the level of detail required to give assurance to me and to the public that commitments on testing will be fulfilled”.

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She demanded details of how many tests were needed in each board area, local capacity, how tests would be organised and how many were being performed.

She said the Government intended to publish board-by-board data on the number of tests conducted each week from next Wednesday, a move that will highlight any stragglers.

She wrote: “This will be scrutinised carefully by the Scottish Government oversight group, by Ministers and also by wider interests. It is therefore crucial that you are closely monitoring progress in your own area to comply with this direction.”

Ms Freeman announced on May 18 that all 53,000 care home staff would be offered weekly tests to help cut infections in homes, the site of around half of Scotland’s Covid deaths.

However the tests have not yet been delivered, with the 14 regional boards moving at different speeds, leading to a growing political row.

At First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon was repeatedly attacked over the missing tests and accused of letting down residents and staff.

Opposition parties last night said Ms Freeman’s letter showed she was now trying to “pass the buck” for a policy she announced before checking boards that were ready to deliver it.

Ms Freeman also revealed there had been 125 outbreaks of Covid inside Scotland’s hospitals, with patients developing the disease on non-Covid wards.

She admitted some cases were “suspected transmission in hospitals”, with asymptomatic patients also bringing the virus into hospital with them.

However she did not provide a breakdown of the categories.

Nicola Sturgeon said it was “inevitable” that face coverings would soon be mandatory in shops, enclosed spaces and on public transport to help stop the virus spreading as more Scots gradually returned to work.

It came as UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced face coverings will be mandatory on public transport in England from June 15.

He said passengers would be refused entry to buses, trains, and aircraft unless they were wearing a covering of some sort, and could be fined for failing to comply.

He said the new regulations would only apply south of the border, but he expected Scotland and Wales to follow suit to simplify cross-border services, but stressed the devolved administrations would set their own timing.

The Scottish Government first advised people to wear face coverings in shops and on public transport on April 28 to help guard against spreading the coronavirus.

However,this has always been voluntary, not compulsory.

At the Scottish Government daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon announced another nine Covid deaths overnight in Scotland, taking the laboratory-confirmed total to 2,395.

She said this was the first time deaths had been in single figures on a weekday (when reporting is more comprehensive than at weekends) since March 27.

Asked if she was considering making face coverings mandatory, she said: “Yes, it is under consideration. We haven’t reached a final position on this, but it is something that we are considering.

“I think that is inevitable.

“If you wear a face-covering in an enclosed space where physical distancing is a bit more difficult, there is some evidence that you wearing a face covering can protect someone else.

“If you have the virus, and if you’re not symptomatic you may not know it, you can then protect or minimise the risk of your transmitting the virus to somebody else.

“Of course another person wearing a face mask is protecting you the same way.”

She said coverings could be made out of scarves and old T-shirts, and did not want the public trying to source medical-grade masks needed by the NHS and care sector.

She said there would be exemptions for health reasons, such as asthma, and for some age groups, such as young children if face coverings did become mandatory.

She said: “As more people go back to work in the future, and more people use public transport, I think we will want to see people where they can wearing a face covering.”

Ms Freeman announced the Covid hospital outbreaks in a written parliamentary answer.

She said that between March 18 and June 3, NHS boards had reported 125 incidents of Covid “outside the Covid-19 wards”, and only five remained ongoing.

Labour said it raised “serious questions” about the adequacy of personal protective equipment, the testing of hospital staff and the decision to move hundreds of delayed discharge patients out of hospitals into care homes in March without testing them.

MSP Monica Lennon said: “It is clear that the concerns of patients, families and care home residents have not been listened to and as a result lives have been put in danger.”

Also at the briefing, Ms Freeman said she had “reminded” NHS boards of the care home testing policy to ensure a “consistency of focus and application”.

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Ms Sturgeon added: “We intend to publish the data broken down by health boards so that people across the country can see the progress being made.”

If all care home staff were tested in line with the Government’s policy, they should account for more than 7000 tests per day.

But the most tests conducted since the policy was set is 6,518, which included members of the public and other essential workers.

On Wednesday, it was 5,202 tests out of a capacity of 15,500.

Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “It seems Jeane Freeman is trying to pass the buck on care home testing.

“If the SNP isn’t putting pressure on councils to deliver, it’s hiding behind the NHS.

“It’s the SNP government’s responsibility to deliver this, and failure to do so will fall on its shoulders.

“Both Ms Freeman and Nicola Sturgeon need to stop trying to blame everyone else for the crisis in Scotland’s care homes.”

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “I first proposed introducing regular testing for social care staff in April, and the Health Secretary finally confirmed she would do so more than two weeks ago. We’re in the middle of the biggest public health crisis we have faced yet testing capacity is woefully underused. To protect staff and patients we need to know who has the virus so regular testing is essential. I’m concerned to learn that 10 weeks on from lockdown beginning, letters are only now being sent to encourage testing. Where’s the urgency?”

Scottish LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “We need to see everyone from the Health Secretary down pulling in the same direction.

“Liberal Democrats have been pushing for local breakdowns of the number of tests for a number of weeks now. This is not about naming and shaming but about giving a clear picture of where the virus is and how it has moved through the population.

“The Health Secretary should make local breakdowns of testing data available as soon as possible.”

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: “There is a shocking disconnect between Scottish Government promises on testing and what is being delivered.

“The woeful testing rate is putting Scotland’s progress in suppressing Covid-19 at risk.

“Bad planning is the responsibility of Scottish Ministers. We need to see more support for health boards and care homes so that regular and repeat testing becomes a reality.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, whose boundaries take in a third of Scotland’s care home deaths from Covid, said its arrangements for routine staff testing would be “fully in place” by next week.

A spokesperson said: “We are committed to testing care home residents and staff in line with national guidance.

“We’ve been offering testing to any care home staff with symptoms, alongside members of their household since March. Since testing was extended by the Cabinet Health Secretary in mid-May, we have been working to put arrangements in place to carry these out.

“As of this week, we have tested all care home staff where have been active cases of Covid-19, as well as residents.

“We have also tested a number of care homes where there have been no cases and by next week, our arrangements for routine staff testing will fully be in place.”