Care homes face national review as police investigate Skye deaths

A national review into Scotland’s care home sector should be carried out after the coronavirus crisis is over, Jeane Freeman has said.
Home Farm care home on SkyeHome Farm care home on Skye
Home Farm care home on Skye

The health secretary spoke out as she came under fresh pressure over the release of hundreds of older hospital patients into care homes in March without being tested. This was before new rules requiring this were brought into force.

It also emerged that police were investigating the Home Farm Care Home on Skye after an outbreak at the home killed ten residents.

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Nicola Sturgeon last week raised concerns over the diverse operating systems in Scotland’s care homes which sees council providers sit alongside private companies and third sector operators.

Asked about the prospect of a review of the care homes system, Ms Freeman said: “There needs to be a look at the way we currently have that mixed economy of provision of social care and care homes, where we have the private sector involved, we have the not-for-profit sector involved, third sector charities and their public agencies who are local authorities whether that is the correct approach going forward.

“I think it is entirely right that we review that and consider with the public in Scotland whether or not that should be changed, if it should be changed in what way should it be changed and in what way should all of that be funded as it taken forward.

“So we ensure that we have the best quality of care for our older people regardless of where they are, regardless of whether they are in a residential setting or in their own home.”

Ms Freeman said the “short term focus” was in dealing with the pandemic.

But she added: “I think it has shone up a number of areas where there have been improvement that we want to hold on to and other areas where we might want to look for improvements in the future.”

Donald MacAskill of Scottish Care said yesterday that staff in care homes were “dedicated” to the care of residents.

He added: “At the end of that process, as the cabinet secretary has said we will look at the future of social care in Scotland, that’s both care homes and home care.”

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It emerged yesterday that the deaths of three women at the care home on Skye at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak are being investigated by police.

Ten residents at Home Farm care home in Portree have died in the outbreak.

Police Scotland said they were looking into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of three women – aged 84, 86 and 88 – at the home.

In a statement, Police Scotland said: “We can confirm we are investigating the circumstances of the deaths of three women, aged 84, 86 and 88, at Home Farm care home on Skye. Inquires are continuing.”

A spokeswoman for HC-One said they were committed to co-operating fully with any investigations into the coronavirus-related deaths and apologised for any failings.

She added: “We recognised that improvements were needed at Home Farm and therefore apologise to our residents, their families, and the local community.

“The safety and wellbeing of our residents is our top priority and we have already made significant progress. We are continuing to make sustained and continued improvements across the home so we can deliver the very best for residents and colleagues at Home Farm.”

A separate police probe has also been launched into a home in East Dunbartonshire, it emerged yesterday, although it is not understood to be connected Covid-19.

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It came as Ms Freeman came under fresh pressure it emerged over the weekend that 921 patients were released from hospitals into care homes in March – the first month of the coronavirus crisis.

But it was not until 21 April that a policy for mandatory testing of all new care home residents was announced by the Scottish Government.

Labour leader Richard Leonard raised concerns over the figures when the health secretary previously gave assurances that the majority of those untested patients were sent to their own homes.

Ms Freeman said yesterday: “If I had know everything I know now, had known then, then we may have made different decisions about whether or not every patient who was being discharged from hospital who was a Covid patient was tested to ensure that they were negative. What is the case is that they were discharged from hospital because they were clinically well.

“As always even though we looked to bring the number of delayed discharges, an objective shared across all the parties in the Scottish Parliament for many years what happened even in those circumstances is that every single case could be clinically assessed in order to be confident that they were ready to be discharged and clinically well.”

But Mr Leonard said: “This new information is deeply disturbing and Jeane Freeman has serious questions to answer as to why she claimed that the vast majority of untested discharged patients were sent to their own homes.”



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