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Watchdog critical

Scottish ministers accused of pandemic planning failures

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Pandemic preparations ‘were not fully implemented’

The Scottish Government failed to fully follow guidance on planning for a pandemic, the public spending watchdog has found.

Audit Scotland said that in the years before the coronavirus outbreak, there were three pandemic preparedness exercises in 2015, 2016 and 2018. But not all the actions identified were fully implemented.

The watchdog said this included measures to ensure access to enough PPE and to quickly address social care capacity, both of which became “significant” issues during the first wave of the pandemic.

It found the government did act quickly to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed by coronavirus, but the Auditor General for Scotland,Stephen Boyle, said there are “clear lessons to be learned” from the pandemic and that the government could have been better prepared to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Covid has caused or been linked to about 9,000 deaths in Scotland with the hardest hit being those from deprived areas and those of South Asian or Caribbean origin or Black ethnicity.

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The report also found that a flu pandemic was “highly likely”, but the Scottish government did not include this scenario in future planning.

The Scottish Conservatives accused the SNP of “dithering and dereliction” and backed the auditor general’s demand for PPE procurement to return to a competitive tendering process.

It said the SNP must also explain what happens after June this year when a commitment to supply free PPE across the health and social care sectors ends.

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Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, Donald Cameron, said: “This damning report reveals nearly a decade of SNP dithering and dereliction. 

“It cannot be dismissed by the usual SNP spin. This is not about the benefit of hindsight.

“The auditor general is clear. The SNP Government failed to heed loud and clear warnings.

“No-one could have foreseen the full extent of what happened, but this report raises serious questions of SNP Ministers.”



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