DEMANDS have been made for an urgent public inquiry into the Scottish Government’s “reckless” decision to transfer more than 100 positive coronavirus patients into care homes – with one official admitting that it is “likely that hospital discharges were the source of introduction of infection in a small number of cases”.

Nicola Sturgeon has been told that it is “essential that lessons are urgently learned” after a stark report from Public Health Scotland revealed that 113 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 were discharged from hospitals into care homes between March and May without first receiving a negative result.

The study also found that in March and April, 3,022 patients were discharged from hospitals and sent to care homes without being tested.

Dr Donald Macaskill, the CEO of Scottish Care, has warned that the report should serve as a warning to “ensure that the whole health and care system really does support the care home sector in the weeks ahead” as cases continue to rise as we head towards winter.

He added that “the needs of the residents rather than protection of any system or organisation” should be the focus in the coming months after the protection of the NHS was a key priority in the early days of the pandemic Nicola Sturgeon said that “hospital discharges were not found to have contributed to a significantly higher risk of an outbreak”.

She added: “Nothing in it detracts from the tragedy of the deaths that have occurred in care homes over the course of the pandemic and nothing ever will detract from the heartbreak of those bereaved.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson labelled the SNP response as a “collective shrug” which was “offensive and disrespects those whose lives were lost”.

Ms Davidson, along with other party leaders have demanded that a public inquiry into the scandal is launched.

Despite Ms Sturgeon stating that there is no statistical evidence to back up worries over the transfer of positive and patients and those with an unknown Covid status, Bruce Guthrie, professor of general practice at Edinburgh University, who helped draw up the report, admitted that hospital discharged will have played a role in some care home outbreaks.

He said: “It remains true that any person coming into the care home from outside carries some risk of introducing the virus.

“There is some risk, therefore, whether that is someone who is discharged from hospital, a resident who is admitted newly from the community but also members of staff, other healthcare professionals.

“Our overall interpretation is that it is therefore likely that hospital discharges were the source of introduction of infection in a small number of cases.”

Ms Sturgeon said Public Health Scotland will now carry out further work to give a more detailed understanding of Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes.

She added: “Where the reports conclusions highlight the need for additional measures, we will act on that.

“I want people to know we take this very seriously.”

Between March 1 and April 21 there were 3,599 discharges from hospitals to care homes, with 82 per cent not tested for coronavirus.

Of the 650 who were tested, 78 received a positive result while in hospital and of these patients, but only 10 tested negative before they were discharged.

The report noted that on April 21, Ms Freeman said Covid-19 patients being discharged from hospitals to care homes should have given two negative tests before being moved.

Between April 22 and May 31, there were 1,605 discharges from hospitals to care homes, with 93 per cent of them being tested for Covid-19, in line with guidance.

Of these, 1,215 tested negative and 278 tested positive. Of those who tested positive, 233 had a negative test result before discharge, though 12 had only one negative test.

A total of 45 did not have a negative test before they were discharged.

But the Scottish Conservatives have demanded a public inquiry takes place urgently to establish how the process was allowed to happen.

Ms Davidson said: “The SNP government’s response to this report is wholly inadequate and will give little comfort to those grieving families still trying to find out how and why their loved one died.

“Thousands of patients were transferred without a test and over a hundred people, who were known to have coronavirus, were sent to care homes alongside some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

She added: “This is a time for contrition, not a selective and complacent interpretation of decisions that saw many elderly people die.

“It is now more important than ever to know what the First Minister and her Health Secretary knew and when. That’s why we need the public inquiry into this scandal to begin without further delay.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson, Monica Lennon has stressed that the transfer of patients should never have happened.

She said: “The decision to move patients with Covid-19 into care homes was reckless and SNP ministers must be held to account for this Russian roulette strategy.

“The combination of knowingly transferring the virus into care homes and not bothering to test hundreds of other patients before moving them, is unfathomable."

She added: “Covid-19 positive or untested patients should never have been discharged from hospital into care homes, but Scottish Government guidance from March 13 left the door open for this to occur.

“The subsequent consequences for Scotland’s care home population is a national scandal."

“That’s why I have asked the Lord Advocate and Police Scotland to investigate how this happened, and it is right that a public inquiry is launched as soon as possible into the decisions made by the Scottish Government during the pandemic.”

Scottish Greens health spokesperson, Alison Johnstone said 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".

She added: “It’s essential that lessons are urgently learned from spring, to minimise a repeat of this entirely unacceptable situation this winter."