DOZENS of hospital patients were discharged to care homes in the first few weeks of the pandemic despite having tested positive for Covid-19, new research has revealed.

An investigation by Public Health Scotland has found that 78 patients discharged between March 1 and April 21 “received a positive result while in hospital”.

Meanwhile between 22 April and May 31, only 233 of 278 patients who were discharged to care homes who had tested positive “had a negative test result prior to discharge” -leaving a question mark over the status of 45 people who were moved to care homes.

The data also shows that thousands of hospital patients were discharged to care homes in March and April without being tested for Covid-19.

In March, 2,303 people were moved from hospitals to care homes without being tested while 713 discharged hospital patients were sent to care homes in April without being tested.

Nicola Sturgeon pointed to the report, stating that there is "no statistical evidence" that discharges "of any kind" contributed to outbreaks in care homes.

But the report adds that officials "cannot statistically exclude the presence of a small risk from hospital discharge". 

Ms Sturgeon added that the Scottish Government willaim to obtain "as detailed an understanding as possible" of the situation and will explore "further improved safety measures in care homes".

The analysis by Public Health Scotland showed that there were 3,599 discharges from hospital from a care home between March 1 and April 21 – the “majority of which were not tested” for the virus, as was the guidance at the time.

The report states that “of the 650 who were tested, 78 received a positive result while in hospital”.

But the report goes onto detail the 1,605 discharges from hospitals to care homes between April 22 and May 31, stating that 93 per cent were tested for Covid-19 but “278 tested positive”. Of those who tested positive, “233 had a negative test result prior to discharge”.

The publication adds that “it is important to note that there are valid clinical reasons for individuals not to be tested prior to discharge, relating to their capacity to consent to testing and avoiding causing distress, and to appropriateness of testing, e.g. in end of life care situations”.

In August, it was revealed that at least 37 patients were transferred from hospitals to care homes despite testing positive for coronavirus

At least five Scottish health boards moved patients positive for Covid-19 into care homes around the time the lockdown was put in place in March. 

The Scottish Government confirmed that 1,431 untested patients were moved to care homes between March 1 and April 21 before mandatory testing of patients being discharged was introduced. 

But the Sunday Post reported that at least 300 patients were tested in that same period prior to discharge to care homes, with at least 37 testing positive. 

Scottish Conservatives health spokesperson, Donald Cameron, said: “Families who lost loved ones after Covid-positive hospital patients were knowingly discharged into care homes have been waiting months for answers from this SNP government.

“Today’s overdue report reveals a scandalous dereliction in the provision of public health to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“To see people’s worst fears confirmed by these statistics only adds to the need for full and frank disclosure from the SNP.”

Scottish Greens health spokesperson, Alison Johnstone, added: “Care homes are supposed to be safe havens for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and it is an absolute tragedy that so many people have been fatally let down in this way. That so many families have lost a loved one due to systematic policy failures is an appalling reflection on the handling of this crisis.

“We’ve known for some time that people who had tested positive or who had not been tested at all were discharged to care homes, but the sheer scale of this scandal is absolutely astonishing.

“The Scottish Government has so far failed to provide a satisfactory explanation as to why it allowed so many potentially infectious people to be discharged to care homes.

“It’s essential that lessons are urgently learned from Spring, to minimise a repeat of this entirely unacceptable situation this winter. The recent outbreaks at care homes in Edinburgh and West Lothian leave me concerned that those lessons have not yet been fully learned.”