Seventeen patients from NHS Ayrshire and Arran were moved to care homes after testing positive for COVID-19 in the weeks surrounding lockdown.

The virus swept through Scotland's care homes leading to the deaths of at least 1,950 people including 133 in Ayrshire.

The revelation comes following concern around the Scottish Government's policy of allowing patients to be moved to homes untested, but an investigation by The Sunday Post revealed many of those transferred had been confirmed to have the virus.

The government confirmed 1,431 untested patients were discharged to care homes between March 1 and April 21, before testing became mandatory.

During this time, at least 300 patients were tested for the virus and 37 came back positive - most them were in Ayrshire.

Dr David Chung, an emergency consultant at Crosshouse Hospital and head of the Royal College for Emergency Medecine in Scotland, explained to the Sunday Post the thinking behind clearing beds by discharging patients into care.

He said: "People had to make difficult decisions which, in hindsight, would have been done in a different way. We were looking at what was happening in Italy and we were treating this [as] a slow-motion major incident. In a major incident the thing you do is you create capacity and that's what we were attempting to do, in good faith.

"If we knew somebody had COVID there are situations where we think this person might not survive, they've got severe dementia, it's kinder for them to be in an environment they know, and [care home] staff should be able to treat them and keep them isolated."

Irvine Times: Henry Dwyer died in a Prestwick care home in May.Henry Dwyer died in a Prestwick care home in May.

Dr Crawford McGuffie, NHS Ayrshire and Arran's Medical Director, said clinical teams completed risk assessments with care homes for each individual patient before arranging their discharge to care facilities.

He said: "Throughout the pandemic the national and local health protection advice has been clear about the importance of ensuring 14 days of self-isolation on discharge to care homes together with the use of robust infection prevention and control measures.

"NHS Ayrshire and Arran has followed the national guidance on testing, including testing for patients who had finished their acute care and were ready for discharge to a care home."

Across Ayrshire 168 people were sent to care homes without tests over the course of  10 weeks between March 10 and May 19.

Out of 273 patients who left hospitals between in those 10 weeks in Ayrshire – less than half – 105 were tested.

Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman, MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, previously confirmed that 1,431 untested patients were moved to care homes in Scotland between March 1 and April 21 before testing was mandatory.

The Scottish Government made it mandatory to test patients being discharged into care homes on April 21.

Tragically 22 residents died of suspected or confirmed coronavirus at just one care home - the Fullarton Care Home in Irvine. While many others across Ayrshire also lost residents.

The latest figures reveal that 46 per cent of all Scotland's coronavirus-related deaths were in care homes.

Irvine Times: Douglas McLean passed away at Glenfairn House, Ayr, in April.Douglas McLean passed away at Glenfairn House, Ayr, in April.

The Scottish Government said: “Our priority throughout the pandemic has been to save lives. Discharge decisions for individual patients are made by clinicians based on the patient’s needs. If somebody is discharged to a care home it is because that has been assessed as the best place to meet their needs. No evidence of any kind has been given to the government that would substantiate the serious accusation that any clinicians withheld test results and it is not acceptable if full information was not passed on.

“We have taken firm action to protect care home staff and residents. There has never been guidance or policy to actively move patients unwell with COVID-19 into care homes. Guidance has been clear that any individual being placed in a care home must be subject to an appropriate risk assessment and be isolated for 14 days. This is to make explicit that steps should be taken to ensure patients are screened clinically so people at risk were not transferred inappropriately.

“All our policy decisions were based on the best clinical advice available at that time. As we learned more about the impact of the virus, we ensured all guidance and decisions followed that changing landscape.”