The Scottish Government is to introduce new powers to intervene in failing care homes during the coronavirus pandemic, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced.
Speaking at the government’s daily briefing, Ms Freeman said amendments to the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill will be considered by the Scottish Parliament next week.
The changes will mean that if there is a “significant risk” to care home residents or “a provider was unable to continue to deliver care due to failure, Scottish Ministers and public bodies have the power to intervene”.
Every NHS health board and local authority will be required from next week to set up an oversight team to hold daily discussions about the quality of care and infection prevention and control in care homes.
The oversight teams will have the ability to escalate issues to the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Government, who will be able to use the new emergency powers.
Last week, the Care Inspectorate submitted an application to the courts seeking the cancellation of the registration for Home Farm in Skye, where 10 residents have died.
Ms Freeman said there have been instances where care standards during the pandemic have “fallen short”.
She added: “These new arrangements will ensure clarity and consistency across the country about the role of health boards and local authorities in helping to keep their residents safe from coronavirus and should be seen alongside other recent action the Scottish Government has taken, including publishing revised guidance for the sector, and amendments to the Coronavirus Bill being discussed at parliament next week.
“I want to assure staff, residents and their families that a safe residential environment in care homes remains our top priority.”
The Health Secretary also said the government was “actively looking” at whether or not to expand testing in care homes to all residents and staff.
Her comments came after Scottish Care chief executive Donald Macaskill told BBC Sunday Politics Scotland that he agreed there should be testing of all care home residents and all staff regularly and not just sample testing.
Ms Freeman also announced that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has appointed Professor Marion Bain to the role of deputy chief medical officer on an interim basis.
Prof Bain was the Scottish Government’s medical adviser for public health reform and most recently worked as the director of infection prevention and control in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Prof Bain will work alongside the other interim deputy chief medical officer Dr Nicola Steedman and will support chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith.
The latest Covid-19 figures from Health Protection Scotland show that deaths have risen to 2,103, up by nine from Saturday.
The statistics announced ahead of the briefing show that 14,537 people have tested positive for the virus, up 90 from 14,447 the day before.
There are 59 patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in intensive care, the same number as on Saturday, with 46 of those having tested positive.
There are 1,308 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a decrease of 108 from 1,416 on Saturday.
The latest figures also show that on May 16 there were 3,043 tests for the virus carried out by NHS Scotland in hospitals, care homes or the community, making a total of 122,365 Covid-19 tests through NHS labs to date.
A total of 45% of adult care homes are dealing with a current case of the virus, with 58% recording at least one case with the Care Inspectorate since the start of the epidemic.