Nicola Sturgeon accuses England of under-reporting care home deaths

Nicola Sturgeon accuses England of under-reporting care home deaths as she swipes at Boris Johnson for easing lockdown saying Scotland is right to be more ‘cautious’

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Nicola Sturgeon today accused England of under-reporting care home deaths as she swiped at Boris Johnson for easing lockdown too early.

The Scottish First Minister said the apparent higher proportion of victims in care homes north of the border was due to the way they are recorded.

She insisted that people who died of stroke and ‘happened’ to have coronavirus were counted in the numbers in Scotland – whereas they were not in England, meaning that there was ‘under-reporting’.

Asked on Sky News whether she thought that the PM was loosening the lockdown in England too quickly, Ms Sturgeon insisted she did not want to ‘criticise other politicians’ and they were all ‘trying to do the right things’.  

But she pointedly said that in Scotland they were being ‘very cautious’. ‘This virus has not gone away,’ she said. ‘That is why in Scotland we are moving very slowly.’ 

Nicola Sturgeon today accused England of under-reporting care home deaths as she swiped at Boris Johnson for easing lockdown too early

A series of experts have raised concern about the moved to ease the lockdown in England, which takes effect from tomorrow, with the UK still getting 8,000 new infections a day.

Up to six people from six different households will be permitted to meet up in public places or gardens. Primary schools and nurseries have also been told they can start to reopen, while all non-essential shops can return from June 15. 

Mr Johnson said explicitly last week that ‘barbecues’ will now be allowed, sparking alarm from some scientists about the potential for spread.

In Scotland and Wales the loosening is far less dramatic, with only two households allowed to meet up at a time and people told not to travel more than five miles from home. Schools north of the border will not be back until after holidays there in August. 

During the interview with Sophy Ridge, Ms Sturgeon was told that 46 of deaths linked to corona were in care homes in Scotland.

By contrast the figure was 28 per cent in England and Wales. 

Ms Sturgeon said: ‘Every single death from this virus is a matter of deep personal regret to me…’

But she said she did not believe Scotland’s care home deaths were really higher.

‘More of them in care homes have been attributed to covid in care homes,’ she said.

‘In Scotland if you die of say a stroke but you also happen to have the virus you will be included in the deaths from covid. 

Ms Sturgeon said ‘on the face of it’ it was a ‘question of under-reporting from England’. 

Ms Sturgeon also waded into the row over scientific advice to ministers, saying politicians are elected ‘not just for the easy times but for the hard times as well. Our advisers advise us but we take the decisions’.  

She said if she was a scientist at the moment she might have ‘a little concern that politicians are trying to blame me for the decisions’.   

The majority of care homes in Britain have not had any staff tested for coronavirus, figures suggest, indicating the Government remains a long way off its target for universal testing by early June.

The latest data on staff testing suggests similarly low figures to those released in recent days regarding the testing of residents.

Sixty-two per cent of care homes have not had any staff members tested since the beginning of the pandemic up to May 27, figures from the Data Analysis Bureau (T-DAB) and Person Centred Software (PCS) showed.

On May 15 Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We will test every resident and every member of staff in our elderly care homes in England between now and early June.”

T-DAB looked at a total sample size of 12,407 care givers from 650 care homes across England, Wales and Scotland.

It found that between the date of Mr Hancock’s announcement and May 27, 9 per cent of care home staff had been tested. The figure for England was slightly higher at 10 per cent.

Mr Johnson (pictured in Downing Street this morning) has announced that the lockdown restrictions will be eased slightly in England from tomorrow

Just 15 per cent of care home staff have been tested at any time since the outbreak, figures showed.

The organisation said 6 per cent of care home staff were tested in the seven days up to May 27.

Simon Briscoe, director of T-DAB said: “The rate of testing of care home staff has picked up in the last week but is still far too slow to get close to the target set by the Government.

“Testing of just one in 10 staff and residents is far below the rate demanded by industry bodies and targeted by Government.”

Speaking on Friday, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said testing in care settings needs to be prioritised, and called for “proper guidance” for homes in relation to the NHS Test and Trace programme, which was launched in England the day before.

Data released earlier this month by T-DAB suggested 38% of care homes have had no residents tested since the pandemic started.

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