It has been revealed that eleven vulnerable residents of care homes were given salt water in Scotland instead of the Pfizer Covid vaccination.

On December 16, 2016, residents at Millbrae Care Home, Coatbridge, Lanarkshire were instead given a shot with saline.

A worker at the home — which specialises in dementia — detailed how ‘frazzled looking’ NHS nurses arrived at the home to deliver the doses.

After staff realized their error, all residents received the correct dose of the first medication. 

NHS Lanarkshire apologized on Saturday, but could not tell how many doses had been administered incorrectly.

The report stated that no resident who was given the incorrect injection suffered any harm despite their mistake. At least 12 residents at the 40-bed home have died with Covid since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the Care Inspectorate watchdog.

Eleven vulnerable care home residents were injected with salt water instead of the Pfizer Covid vaccine at Millbrae Care Home (pictured) in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, Scotland, last December

One hundred and eleven residents of vulnerable care homes were given salt water injections instead of the Pfizer Covid vaccination at Millbrae Care Home in Coatbridge (pictured), Lanarkshire, Scotland last December

A mixture of salt water can be used to dilute vaccines following their removal from frozen storage. It was however, dispensed by staff members when it wasn’t possible to combine with Pfizer shots.

The Sunday Mail in Scotland has seen documents that detail this mistake and other possible failings in the care. Staff were even forced to purchase food from local garages in the height of last year’s pandemic.

This comes after Unison, the UK’s largest trade union, found that care home residents were dying on their own and are suffering from ‘negligence’ due to low staffing.

Union research found that 31% of workers in care said staffing levels were unsafely low. It is getting worse, and negatively impacting care quality. Carers feel exhausted, angry, and upset.

Low staffing in care homes means that many residents who are deemed ‘neglected’ may die alone, a survey shows. 

Research suggests that care home residents who are suffering from dementia are living alone, and are being neglected because of the low staffing level.

Unison’s survey found that residents in residential care have been denied dignity at the end of their lives because there is not enough staff available to support them.

Union research found that 31% of workers in care said staffing levels are unsafely low. It is getting worse, which negatively affects care quality and leaves carers feeling exhausted, angry, and upset.

A third (67%) of those surveyed are thinking of leaving the sector. Unison states that this is due to years of poor wages, morale, and underfunding.

Union members surveyed 1637% of employees working in care homes in England and Wales between October 13th to November 4.

Respondents spoke out about the fact that residents don’t wash their hair regularly, are not dressed in the morning and are getting up early to help staff with other residents.

According to them, care is ‘depressingly rush’. They also said that the quality is falling and there are ‘unsafe staffing levels for both day- and nightshifts.

Unknown respondent stated that the dying don’t die with dignity due to insufficient staff available for their last hours.

“Residents are neglected. They don’t have baths. Meals are late. Staff are tired.

Another stated that care was declining because of a shortage in carers. The result is that people are left to fend for themselves in dirty, wet beds.

Suzanne, who is a residential worker described the staff level as dangerously low at times and that care standards were well below acceptable.

She said that she had to give up caring for residents after they needed her.

Nearly all of the respondents (97%) stated that their employer has a staff shortage. Burnout, overwork, and low wages are some of the reasons they cited.

47% of respondents agreed that the shortages in care are having a detrimental effect on patients, and 31% said that staffing levels have also been dangerously low and are getting worse.

Five percent (20%) stated that their workplace manages despite staff shortages. One per cent, however, said they are fine with their work environment and have not experienced any serious staff shortages. 

Scotland’s opposition politicians blasted the government for allowing complacency in the care sector to continue during the pandemic.

Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie told the Daily Record: ‘This alarming incident raises serious questions about the management of the vaccine programme and care sector.

“It’s amazing that the SNP doesn’t realize how common these types of incidents are. It is shocking that they are so complacent.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems and spokesperson for health Alex Cole-Hamilton stated that’mistakes such as these cannot be permitted to happen.

Union bosses asserted that the mixture-up demonstrated the need to invest in personnel levels for the care sector.

GMB Scotland organiser Kirsty Nimmo said: ‘It’s another shameful case in point that social care has been the crisis within a crisis, and it shows yet again why we need to radically tackle the understaffing crises in both care and the NHS.

‘The First Minister said at the outset of the Covid pandemic that ‘health and social care go hand-in-hand’ — that’s correct but it also means that if social care goes down then so will the NHS.’ 

Trudi Marshall was the Health and Social Care North Lanarkshire nursing director.

We apologize for this error and informed the relatives, residents, and staff of the care home.

“This was at the very beginning of the Care Home Vaccination Programme and we took immediate steps to prevent any other similar situations.”

According to a spokesperson for the Scottish Government, the Sunday Mail was informed by a representative of the Health Board that they were alerted about the situation at that time. They also assured that there had been no injury and that everyone affected would receive the vaccine that day.

Thistle Healthcare said that it was aware of the error. 

Unison survey suggests that care home residents face a lack of staff who can sit by their side during final hours. 

Between October 13th and November 4, the union interviewed 1,637 workers in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland who worked in care homes or assisted living.

It found two thirds (67 per cent) of staff are considering leaving the sector, which Unison says is a ‘disastrous but inevitable’ consequence of years of low wages and morale and underfunding. 

Respondents shared stories about how residents aren’t getting their regular wash, not dressing until after lunch and being tired of going to bed at a young hour so that staff can tend to the other residents.

According to them, care is ‘depressingly rush’. They also said that the quality of care is falling and there are ‘unsafe staff levels’ on both days and nights.

Unknown respondent stated that the dying don’t die with dignity due to insufficient staff available for their last hours.

“Residents are neglected. They don’t have baths. Meals are late. Staff are tired.

Christina McAnea, general secretary Unison, stated that a Government pay increase would give some ‘early Christmas cheer’ to caregivers and encourage those on the brink of quitting to remain.

She said: ‘Care workers are leaving in their droves — burnt out from the pandemic, exhausted from covering under-staffed shifts and fed up with low wages.

“This can be a real nightmare for family members worried about caring for their loved ones and overworked staff struggling to cope. It is also a worry for employers who fear they might not have enough workers to keep the doors open.

“The government must find solutions to the crisis in the care sector.

In an effort to fill more social care vacancies than 100,000, the Government launched earlier in this month a recruitment campaign.

It has also provided a £162.5million workforce fund to help providers recruit and retain staff until the end of March.