A LEADING charity is moving for a plan of action to protect older people this winter as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic hits Scotland.

Age Scotland has made an appeal to the Scottish Government to ensure that the lives of older people are being properly protected in the cold months ahead.

And it says a national response to support older people through it should be swift and effective, “switching on” services previously in place through lockdown but adding much more.

He has raised concern that the coronavirus has affected "significantly more" older people than any other age group with just over three in four of Scots that have died being over 75.

The charity's helpline received record numbers of calls from older people and their families during lockdown who were struggling to arrange essential food and medication deliveries.

Mr Sloan has spoken out today on what is the the 30th UN International Day of Older Persons and said that protecting older people has to be a priority.

READ MORE:'We must protect our older people' - Age Scotland's Brian Sloan seeks a winter plan of action

He said it remains imperative that social care and care home staff are supported with "everything they need" to prevent the spread of the virus as the infection rate begins to climb again.

It comes after the publication of a crucial report examining how many elderly people who had tested positive for coronavirus were transferred into Scottish care homes has been delayed, in a move condemned as an insult to bereaved families.

READ MORE: New alarm over Covid control in Scotland's care homes

Public Health Scotland had been due to issue a report into the scale of the problem on Wednesday, after evidence emerged to suggest that patients who it was known had the virus had been knowingly sent to care homes at the start of the pandemic.

As of last week 46% of the 4,247 Covid-19 registered deaths in Scotland were in care homes.

Age Scotland says the Scottish Government should take a lead in ensuring older people have access to food.

Its survey early in the lockdown has highlighted that 32% of respondents struggled to get food from a supermarket and 39% were not able to get online deliveries.

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It said the Scottish Government should work to safeguard a plentiful supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the social care sector including unpaid carers and that there is regular testing of both staff and residents.

Action is needed to stop loneliness and isolation during lockdown, and the charity suggests the Scottish Government supports and promotes friendship lines, befriending services and volunteer networks.

It said the Scottish Government may consider continued support for specialist free helplines and increase the availability of written information through leaflet drops and newspapers.

It also said it was "hugely important" that the doors remain open at GP surgeries and hospitals for treatment and diagnosis.

The flu vaccination programme was "also crucial" and should be consistent across Scotland so that older people have speedy and local access to it.

And it said there should be more digital support. Around half a million over 60s in Scotland do not have access to the internet so further assistance for those with no immediate support from family and friends "is vital".

Age Scotland said public information and access to services must not be digital by default.

Age Scotland’s chief executive, Brian Sloan said: “It is beyond doubt that the impact Covid-19 has had on the lives of older people in Scotland has been significant. Whether it is the high level of illness and death rate in this age group, substantial social care challenges, anxieties about receiving the necessary medical treatment, being asked to shield or self-isolate for extensive periods of time, drastic reduction in social interaction, employment issues and safety, and beyond, older people have been at the front line of this crisis.

“The initiatives and services set up by the Scottish Government and others from the outset of this crisis to support people of all ages through lockdown and shielding have largely worked well, so we recommend that they are maintained, and in some cases further developed, so that they can be 'switched on' when required and without delay.

“I am grateful for the discussions we have already had about this with the Minister for Older People, who has taken them all seriously and has been raising them across government. We now recommend that the Scottish Government develop an action plan for older people, setting out how they will be supported to live well and safely through winter.

“This plan would address the acute challenges faced by older people as a result of the pandemic, including those who have been shielding, and highlight the successful interventions made by the Scottish Government, local authorities and the third sector. It is a good opportunity to commit to the necessary services, and develop solutions for areas which did not sufficiently meet the need during the more restrictive lockdown.”

He added: "No age group is immune but the grim figures highlight how great the toll has been and continues to be on our older population. And we must never forget that each and every one of those deaths is a tragic loss to those who knew and loved them.

"Protecting older people became a priority as the pandemic took hold, and rightly so. It is vitally important that older people in Scotland know that their lives matter and that they are integral to society.

"As the weeks and months went by the biggest difficulty faced by many older people was growing loneliness, isolation and anxiety.

"Lack of face to face contact with loved ones and the cancellation of all social activities has left a large number of older people feeling alone and cut off from their family, friends and community.

"Even in the shadow of this virus, older people must know their lives are important, they are valued and they will be protected by a caring society."

"Today’s International Day of Older Persons seeks to understand the impact of the pandemic on older people but, six months in, it’s still too early to know what the long term effect will be.

"In Scotland we are heading into winter and the immediate priority must be an action plan for supporting older people through the rest of the year and beyond. The pandemic is not going away. We are going to be living with it for years to come. But even in the shadow of this virus, older people must know their lives are important, they are valued and they will be protected by a caring society."