Hundreds of elderly people were discharged from hospital into care homes and the community in the early days of the coronavirus crisis, new figures have shown.
Data from the NHS in Scotland showed there were 1,108 delayed discharge – also known as “bed blocking” – patients in hospitals aged over 75 in February.
This fell to 331 in April, though routine testing for Covid-19 of new admissions to care homes only began on April 21.
Many of those discharged would have been sent to care homes or returned home to be looked after by carers or family members.
The Scottish Conservatives said it showed care homes were not protected from the virus.
Party leader Jackson Carlaw said: “These figures show very starkly how the over 75s were rushed out of hospital, either to care homes or back to the community.
“As we now know, they weren’t routinely tested for coronavirus.
“These were the most vulnerable people in our society and they were sent out of hospital to places where they would mingle with equally vulnerable individuals.
“It’s no wonder Covid-19 has spread like wildfire in our care homes.”
He continued: “The SNP government now needs to explain why so many over 75s were chased out of hospital during a global health pandemic without proper testing or protection.
“The situation has become an issue of national disgrace for the SNP.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was asked about the discharge of hospital patients into care homes at her daily briefing on Tuesday.
She said her decisions were “clinically informed”, adding: “What has happened with deaths in care homes is a matter of deep regret. It’s certainly a matter of deep personal regret to me.
“We’ve seen a similar picture in care homes in many other countries across the world.
“At every stage we have sought and striven to do the right thing to protect those in our care homes.”
Those discharged would have been at risk if they had been kept in hospital, she said.