HEALTH Secretary Jeane Freeman has admitted to MSPs that assumptions made over protections for vulnerable patients receiving social care “arguably in practice” were “too strongly made”.

Ms Freeman was quizzed by Holyrood’s Health Committee over the Scottish Government’s planning for the Covid-19 pandemic – telling MSPs that she does not think “there was fragility in the supply chain for PPE in Scotland”.

Many health and social care providers have vented anger since the start of the pandemic that they have been unable to get hold of the correct PPE to protect front-line staff – but the Scottish Government has insisted that the country has not run out of the gear at any point.

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The Health Secretary admitted that PPE supply chains were “sorely tested” and that “it had to scale up the volume of its ordering” as well as being forced to “diversify the routes that it had to deliver”.

She added: “There was a huge demand on that national procurement service but the very fact that we had one and we had a stockpile, we had a distribution network and a body of suppliers stood us in good stead in order to stand all of that up.

“There are lessons though from that, not least the distribution routes that we fairly quickly put into place – a range of distribution routes, that we would want to give serious thought to being able to retain that into future planning.”

Conservative MSP Brian Whittle told Ms Freeman that her comments over Scotland’s preparedness in terms of PPE would come as a shock to some.

He said: “To hear you say that you didn’t think there was a fragility of supply chain within PPE initially, I think, a lot of people within social care and NHS would be surprised to hear that.”

The Health Secretary responded to whether the Scottish Government did “give sufficient consideration to the impact of the virus on primary and social care as opposed to secondary hospital-based care”.

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Ms Freeman said that the Scottish Government’s “initial response” was led by the “worst-case scenario” prediction that up to 80 per cent of the population could be infected with Covid-19 and “four per cent of that number would require hospitalisation”.

She added: “We were aware of the importance of social care and the vulnerability there but we had made some assumptions which, arguably in practice were too strongly made in terms of the reality of how that panned out.

“One of those assumptions being the level of infection, prevention and control measures in residential settings across adult and social care which should flow from the national infection, prevention and control manual – but as we appreciated quickly, needed sufficient additional support to ensure that they were in place.”