The National:

‘NO words are going to bring me comfort and no amount of data and statistics are going to answer my questions.”

These were the words of someone who I spoke to shortly after Public Health Scotland published its report on the discharging of patients from NHS hospitals into care homes. She was the wife of someone who had died in a care home during April at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. She expressed the very raw pain that means that nothing is going to fill the void left when a loved one dies.

A few minutes later I watched the daily briefing, where I witnessed a set of exchanges between the First Minister and journalists. Both very different experiences reflect the challenge of undertaking any analysis where emotion, grief and pain are present.

The clinicians and academics who have worked tirelessly to gather the data from diverse sources to present the report should be commended for the robustness of their forensic analysis. Their conclusions might have surprised many, especially their analysis that there was no statistical evidence that discharges of individuals did not significantly add to the risk of outbreaks.

READ MORE: Scots patients who tested positive for Covid were discharged to care homes

The words and numbers of this report will not bring solace to those who have lost loved ones. They will not bring closure to staff members who earnestly believe in some care homes that there is a relationship between admitting someone from hospital and the virus taking root. So, it is important that, as the report’s authors recognise, more work is undertaken, conversations are held and people are listened to.

Undeniably the decision, even if a belated one, to start testing all admissions to care homes, is an action which has added considerable protection to our care homes. But on its own it will not guarantee safety and assurance. It has to be combined with robust staff testing, rigorous Infection prevention and control practice and the wearing of appropriate PPE.

In the weeks and months ahead – as the care sector and its staff, as well as residents and families, live through the second wave and doubtless a third – we all have to realise that seeking answers for present action cannot rest alone upon academic reports and statistical analysis. The reassurance and the response which protects our most vulnerable citizens lies in our own actions and behaviours.

It is not by accident that in the summer we saw hardly any outbreaks and incidents in our care homes because adherence to good societal practice and behaviour was high. Then the cracks began, and people to believe the myth that the virus was no longer a danger, that it was okay to push boundaries and that individual action did not have wider consequence. So it is that as rates of the virus in the community started to climb that we started to see a growing number of outbreaks, and tragically deaths, in our care homes.

Words, research, data and numbers will never restore, and they will not, on their own, bring future protection. Instead, it is acting collectively, supporting one another in communities and households, that will get us through the winter ahead.