ALMOST half of all patients being discharged from hospital into care homes in Inverclyde during the first weeks of the pandemic were not tested for coronavirus.

New data based on information released by Public Health Scotland gives a full picture for the first time of what went on in the period from from March to May 2020 when the pandemic arrived, hitting Inverclyde very hard in the initial stages.

A new breakdown shows that at least 122 patients were moved from wards into local care homes as part of a national response to Covid.

But at the time 53 of them hadn't been tested for the virus.

In several cases, patients who were discharged had contracted Covid.

Both Inverclyde Health & Social Care Partnership and the health board say that lessons have been learned since the early days of the pandemic.

They have welcomed the announcement of a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic, which will include the impact on care homes.

The Scottish Government says that there is no evidence of a link between hospital discharges and deaths.

An Inverclyde HSCP spokesman said: “We extend our deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to Covid-19.

“The pandemic has had a profound impact on many families here and indeed around the world.

“When faced with a virus that was new and very little known about it compared to now, frontline health care staff responded as best they could while following the advice at the time and worked flat out in the best interests of service users and residents, as they always do.

“As with any death, we work closely with our partners to see what could be done differently and what lessons can be learned to improve patient care in future.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases, however, broadly speaking, we know much more now than we did in the early days of the pandemic about how to slow transmission.

"Testing is now more readily available and vaccinations have been vitally important.

“Clearly there has been a commitment to a public inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and that is something we would be happy to contribute to if called to do so and something we will monitor closely and consider any findings.”

The Inverclyde figures show that the 122 patients were discharged into 12 local care homes.

In several cases patients who went on to test positive had been moved into care homes without a negative check.

Exact figures have not been given due to data protection reasons.

Earlier this year figures from the Crown Prosecution Service put the number of deaths in local care homes at 51.

A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde said: "Our sympathies go out to anyone who has lost a loved one during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"At all times throughout the pandemic we have adhered to national guidance in relation to testing and patient discharge and we continue to do so.

"Since the pandemic began we have learned more about the virus and in line with national guidance policies have changed to ensure infection prevention and control measures reflect best practice and minimise the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in our hospitals and in care homes.

"We continue to work closely with Inverclyde HSCP and care homes themselves to ensure they have the support required to respond to the pandemic.

The Scottish Government expressed its sympathy for all those who have lost loved ones.

They said Public Health Scotland analysis found that care home size is 'very strongly related to outbreaks' and also concluded there was no clear statistical evidence that hospital discharges were associated with care home outbreaks.

The government added: "These latest figures do not change that conclusion.

“Decisions to discharge patients are not made by ministers, but health and social care professionals, alongside the patient and their family.

“The Scottish Government will establish an independently-led Covid-19 Scottish public inquiry by the end of this year to scrutinise decisions taken in the course of this pandemic, including the impact on care homes and their residents, and to learn lessons for future pandemics."