MSP Rhoda Grant calls for an effective system of inspection for social care in Scotland as “toothless” Care Inspectorate “passes the buck”

MSP Rhoda Grant calls for an effective system of inspection for social care in Scotland as “toothless” Care Inspectorate “passes the buck”

THE Care Inspectorate has insisted it did everything in its remit to improve standards in a Coronavirus-hit care home on Skye.

When questioned by Highlands & Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant on his organisation’s role in the crisis, the watchdog’s chief executive Peter Macleod insisted this week his organisation “shared all of our concerns about Home Farm Care Home with NHS Highland throughout”.

His inspectors flagged-up poor staffing levels at the Portree facility five months before carers and residents tested positive.

Ten residents have now died.

t is not known what caused the infection to spread.. However, in the run up to it taking hold, staff were expressing fears about carers and residents coming into the home from other areas before they could be tested.

Mr Macleod insisted his inspectors used “carefully considered judgement” to extend improvement deadlines.

He pointed out that they do not have the power to force private care homes to hand the reigns over to NHS for improvements.

But he added: “Our powers do allow us to seek cancellation of a service’s registration if we deem that care is not of acceptable standard by putting a case before a Sheriff for a determination – as is the action we have taken in respect of Home Farm.”

Care gradings at Home Farm Care Home operated by HC-One dropped to “adequate” in December 2018 and legal requirements were put in place to improve care.

In November last year staffing levels were found to be “weak” when undisclosed complaints were investigated. Concern was also raised about infection control procedures.

However, NHS Highland told the MSP staffing “had improved” following this November review.

Responding to written questions from Mrs Grant this week, Mr Macleod said his inspectors visited the care home over four days between 21-24 January “to follow up on requirements made at a previous inspection”.

He said some progress was found to have been made but the specific requirements set out in the inspection report had not been met.

Defending the decision to further extend the improvement deadline, he said “where possible, we must also enable continuity of their care, provided we believe that care to be safe and of sufficiently high quality to meet residents’ needs. These are carefully considered judgements.”

He went on: “On this occasion, on the basis of the evidence available to us at the time, we considered that the commitment given by the provider to make improvements and the monitoring arrangements which had been put in place, along with the support to the home provided by NHS Highland, was sufficient to allow us to extend the timescale for meeting the outstanding requirements to 31 March 2020.”

Commenting, Rhoda Grant said: “The Care Inspector’s powers are clearly limited, and they are passing the buck. This puts holes all over Health Secretary Jeane Freeman’s statement that said Scotland already has an effective system of inspection for social care. Demonstrably this is not the case and Home Farm is just one example of that.”

Mrs Grant is also probing the role of other agencies including NHS Highland in the crisis.

She said: “NHS Highland chief executive Paul Hawkins has assured me he sent a care response team into Home Farm “immediately” after the first positive results of Covid-19 were identified. However, it might have been more prudent for extra support to have been drafted in sooner. There can’t have been a care agency in the country who didn’t see the Covid-19 storm clouds brewing. Care homes showing concerns should have been more closely-monitored from mid-February when news of this virus was breaking.”

Mrs Grant said she will be asking follow-up questions to find out which services the Care Inspectorate will be prioritising for Inspections.

She added: “I need to be assured they going to Inspect all the weak at-risk services first.”


Highlands and Islands MSP is concerned that advertising support for media is now not guaranteed.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant was pleased when MSPs this week backed another move to give the media 100% business rates relief.

However Mrs Grant was dismayed to discover that might mean the £3million advertising support previously announced by the Scottish Government could be taken off the table.

Mrs Grant has now written to the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, asking if she will clarify the position on advertising support to local, online and national news outlets. 

This week (May 20) an amendment was passed by MSPs for current Non-Domestic Rates (Coronavirus Reliefs) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 to be extended to the media sector which would give the industry a much needed financial break.

The SNP voted against the amendment, but it was passed because Labour joined other Parties to vote it through.

Mrs Grant said: “I am delighted that the newspaper sector will now be able to benefit from Non-Domestic Rates Relief however, the newspaper industry is not out of the woods yet and also needs the advertising support.

“To give with one hand and take away with another would be incredible and smacks of the Scottish Government throwing its toys out of the pram because they didn’t get their way.

“I’m hopeful the media can get both avenues of support because they certainly need it at the moment.”

Mrs Grant continued: “Not only do Public Health Notices need to be given to local news outlets as well as national ones but continued advertising support will help protect the free press and it will help protect jobs which will ultimately aid the recovery of the economy when restrictions are eased.”

Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, Mike Russell, who was leading for the Government, argued during the debate: “There is a difficulty in continuing to add to the £3.5 million another £3.5 million, £4 million or £5 million. That is the simple, practical difficulty.”

According to figures cited in Parliament during the debate, this extension of rates relief will benefit the news sector by around £4 million. 

This now means that premises used for the production of newspapers, and related news platforms, will now be eligible for 100% rates relief in 2020-21. 

Mrs Grant contacted the Scottish Government in April after many local media outlets contacted her calling for more support to be given to the sector as their advertising income has plummeted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scottish Government announced on the 14th May that they will invest £3million into marketing activity in addition to the £440,000 already invested in advertising and public health messages.

It’s a bit sad private care home provider HC-One had to be taken to court before it would get its act together: Grant

Commenting on today’s decision by Inverness Sheriff Court to allow private care home provider HC-One to continue operating a coronavirus-hit care facility on Skye for another three weeks, Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant said: “Whatever happens to ownership, the residents need to have their home protected and should not be moved.  However, this should not be at the detriment of their care which must be up to standard.  I understand that the court heard that there had been improvement but it is a bit sad that it took this to happen to get HC-One to get their act together.”

It comes after The Care Inspectorate applied to the court to cancel the registration of Home Farm Care Come in Portree over “serious and significant concerns”.

Ten residents have died after contracting coronavirus at the facility.

This morning, at a virtual hearing at Inverness Sheriff Court, HC-One and Social Work Scotland said there had been “substantial” improvements.

And their request for the motion to be continued for another three weeks was approved.



Rhoda Grant MSP calls to “Ban Bailouts for Tax Avoiders”

Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour and Cooperative MSP, Rhoda Grant is urging people across the region to add their name to a new petition opposing bailouts for businesses who avoid tax.

The campaign is urging the Scottish Government to make sure that any Government bailouts provided to companies due to the coronavirus should have three simple Fair Tax conditions attached, so in the future tax avoiders cannot benefit from a public purse that they haven’t paid into.

Research has found that three-quarters of the UK public would rather shop with or work for a business that can prove that it is paying its fair share of tax.

The campaign asks that businesses publish a fair tax policy which includes a commitment to no tax avoidance, no tax havens and no profit shifting. The publication of real profits, losses and tax paid on a country-by-country basis and also the publication of details of firms real owners and beneficiaries.

Commenting on the campaign, Rhoda Grant MSP said:

“After this crisis is over we must rebuild and reform Scotland’s economy. We cannot go back to ‘business as usual’ after covid-19 and the Scottish Government should send a clear message that the days of the state bankrolling tax-dodging companies at the expense of the domestic economy are over.

“By only providing support to companies that pay appropriate levels of tax, the Scottish Government can ensure that the money to support Scotland’s economy stays in Scotland.

“Too many multinational companies avoid paying their fair share by fudging where their profits were really made. If businesses are abiding by their policies, they must lift the lid on their accounts and publish their profits, loss and taxes paid on a country-by-country basis.

“The Labour Government in Wales are leading by example on this and have ruled out any of its £500m Economic Resilience Fund, which has been put in place to help businesses, charities and social enterprises, will be granted to businesses reregistered in tax haven who don’t pay their fair share.”

The Co-operative Party Petition link can be found here.

VIDEO: Rhoda Grant today secures an urgent meeting with a Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary in her continuous bid for a Covid-19 emergency protocol for care homes


Rhoda Grant today secured an urgent meeting with a Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary in her continuous bid for a Covid-19 emergency protocol for care homes.

The Highlands & Islands MSP earned the invite after she criticised Health Secretary Jeane Freeman in the Scottish Parliament Chamber over the length of time she has taken to respond to her repeated requests for “a clear single protocol” to be drawn up to protect staff and residents from Covid-19 outbreaks.

Speaking in Chamber Rhoda said she believed lack of a protocol has been “disastrous” for care homes.

Citing Home Farm Care Home on Skye where 10 residents are confirmed to have died after testing positive with Covid-19, Mrs Grant said an overwhelming level of infection was discovered when testing did eventually occur. Lack of a clear protocol has been disastrous.”

And Rhoda challenged the Cabinet Secretary to disclose why it took so long to come around to the idea that testing in care homes was key to saving lives both in the homes and surrounding communities.

Rhoda said: “Since the very beginning of this crisis, Scottish Labour have repeatedly highlighted that testing in care homes is the advice of both experts in the Scotland and the World Health Organisation and other international agencies. So, can I ask the Cabinet Secretary to outline exactly what scientific advice has changed in that the government now accepts the need to carry out regular staff testing in care homes.”

It follows Jeane Freeman’s announcement yesterday that all 53,000 care home staff in Scotland would be offered routine tests in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The Health Secretary apologised to Rhoda for the delay in responding to her request for a protocol for care homes, adding “in advance of you receiving a proper response I am very happy to meet you to discuss what you think should be in an emergency protocol and to consider whether that is something that we can do to add to what’s already being done. My office will be in touch to ensure that we have that meeting as soon as possible.”

Mrs Freeman said the recent change to offer testing to staff regardless of whether there was a Covid-19 case in the care home where they work came down to a renewed understanding about the virus.

She said: “At the outset the view was if you were not symptomatic you were unlikely to be infections and the test was not reliable. That view has changed over the piece in that there is increasing evidence and debate in the scientific community about the degree to which a-symptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals may be infectious. And whilst the test is not as reliable in a-symptomatic individuals as it is in those with symptoms the advice has changed. It now says that given there is a growing debate about the level of infectiousness of individuals who are a-symptomatic or pre-symptomatic, the use of the test in contained areas like a care home for preventative purposes, bearing in my you have to keep repeating it every seven days to be sure, is on balance the right thing to do – and that is why we have changed our position.”

Rhoda also asked when will this level of “regular” testing be available in every one of Scotland’s care homes but Jeane Freeman failed to address this point.

Speaking afterwards, Rhoda said: “I welcome the change in approach but wanted to make it clear that testing on a more regular basis than just once weekly would provide greater protection to staff and residents.

Rhoda Grant welcomes legal bid to remove owners of infection-hit Skye care home

Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant, who has been calling for answers on the reasons Home Farm Care Home was hit so badly by Covid-19, is pleased by the announcement that The Care Inspectorate has taken steps to cancel the registration of the Portree facility, where seven residents have died.

The care industry watchdog said the enforcement action was promoted by “serious and significant concerns” about how the home was being operated.

The move could see the operator HC-One, which owns more than 300 care homes across the UK, not legally allowed to operate the care service.

Rhoda said: “I am glad the Care Inspectorate is taking action but they should have acted sooner given they were aware that there were issues. Inspectors who dropped by at Home Farm unannounced across two days late in January found staffing levels were not being matched to care needs, with numbers of staff fluctuating and scant at the weekends. They concluded the level and quality of care and support people received was “not always adequate”. It’s easy to see why Covid-19 might have spread so quickly, especially when there were concerns about infection control. It would not appear staffing levels were anywhere near adequate back in January at least to respond to this crisis.”

She added: “In every contact I have had with families and the community it has been impressed upon me that the staff are wonderful. It is such a shame that they have had to work so hard and have themselves been left in a dangerous situation.

“The needs of residents must be paramount. NHS Highland must look to take over the management of Home Farm in the interim.”


Note to editors

Scottish Labour press release below.




This afternoon, the Care Inspectorate has submitted an application to the sheriff court to cancel the registration of Home Farm care home on Skye, where seven residents have died, over serious and significant concerns.

Commenting , Scottish Labour Health and Social Care spokesperson Monica Lennon said:

“The Covid-19 outbreak at Home Farm care home has caused the deaths of seven people and remains a threat to the lives of dozens of residents and staff.

“It is right and proper for the Care Inspectorate to intervene and take action, however, the public are right to ask what took so long and has enough been done to monitor and support care homes across Scotland, which now find themselves at the epicentre of this crisis.

“Despite years of planning for a pandemic, the Scottish Government has been too slow in responding to pleas from care home workers and families on testing and PPE. This must be a turning point and the First Minister and the Health Secretary must ensure that every possible action is taken to save lives within care homes.”


Sent by email from the Scottish Labour Party, promoted by Michael Sharpe, Scottish General Secretary, on behalf of the Scottish Labour Party, both at 290 Bath Street, Glasgow G2 4RE.


To join or renew call 0345 092 2299.

Rhoda Grant MSP has asked NHS Highland to start daily testing of all care home staff and residents who tested negative at the Skye care home hit by a coronavirus outbreak

Home Farm Care Home remains at the centre of the island’s outbreak as 57 residents and staff test positive for the deadly virus.

In an email marked urgent to health board interim Chief Executive Paul Hawkins, Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant said testing at Home Farm Care Home should be carried out every day with immediate effect for all the staff and residents who tested negative when mass testing was carried out on 29 and 30 April.

Army personnel have been deployed to Skye after residents died at the care home. Five residents have now died.

Rhoda said: “I know NHS Highland did not delay testing at the home as soon as the first staff member was confirmed with Covid-19. But this testing needs to be carried out on a daily basis at the care home for staff and residents who tested negative.”

Rhoda has also asked NHS Highland to respond to concerns raised by the devastated family of a resident who sadly died at the facility yesterday after testing positive for the disease.

They are concerned about the care home’s handling of infection control during the pandemic and claimed staff were being moved around between the group’s other care homes in other areas, without adhering to self-isolation protocol.

Rhoda has asked Mr Hawkins did NHS Highland know whether staff had been tested before they were moved in and whether any contact tracing of staff had taken place to ensure staff brought in were not coming from other homes where patients had tested positive for the infectious disease.

Rhoda has also questioned Mr Hawkins on what steps the health board took to alert Home Farm about risks to residents once the threat of Covid-19 became known, and what steps it took to identify care homes where residents might be at particular risk due of low standards of care being flagged up in inspection reports.

Home Farm was warned about adhering to cleanliness standards just six months ago.

The MSP also wants to know what extra staffing NHS Highland has deployed to the home since the outbreak.

In addition, Rhoda has also written urgently to the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman asking how all separate bits of government advice have been passed on to care homes by the Scottish Government.

In her email Rhoda says: “I understand the Home Farm Care Home has weak ratings with regard to infection control – was it identified by Health Protection Scotland as one which might need special attention or guidance before the outbreak occurred? If this is the case, what additional action was taken to protect residents?”

She went on: “At Topical Questions on the 5th of May, you told me the guidance was clear, “there should be no transfer of staff from one care home to another because all of this is about breaking the transmission route”.

“When was this guidance passed on to care homes?

“Also during Topical Questions, you told me many of the private care homes were not following government guidance and that’s why government was now intervening. Where the Government believes that the private sector is at fault, what steps will it be taking to investigate and ensure the right procedures are in place?”

Rhoda also urged the health minister to look into the care home’s policies with regards to allowing relatives to be with their loved-ones in their final moments.

She wrote: “The grief-stricken family I am supporting phoned me in the hours after their loved-one passed. There appeared to have been last-minute confusion which prevented more than one of his relatives to be by his side at the time of his passing.

“This can only lead to further distress. I believe safe ways can be found to let people visit at the same time if they are all wearing full PPE. This must be looked at urgently and can you (Cabinet Secretary for Health) communicate with the care home and ask that they change this ruling? I have also written to the Managing Director of HC-One John Kirk today and I put this question to him.”

Rhoda Grant MSP Backs Campaign To Tackle Lockdown Rail Network Trespassers

Rhoda Grant MSP Backs Campaign To Tackle Lockdown Rail Network Trespassers

Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant is backing a new awareness-raising campaign to warn against trespassing on the railway during the COVID-19 lockdown following reports of incidents across the Highlands.

Network Rail’s ‘Stay off the tracks. Stay home. Stay safe.’ campaign will run on commercial radio stations across Scotland and on social media channels from May to July.

Targeting younger people in particular, the campaign has been launched in response to increasing levels of trespass on the railway during the current lockdown period.

Over 70 trespass incidents have been recorded on Scotland’s Railway since March 20, when Scotland’s schools closed ahead of the full lockdown on March 23. Network Rail have reported that trespass is proving to be an issue across the country including in locations across and the Highlands.

Commenting on the campaign Rhoda Grant MSP said:

“Trespassing on the rail network is a growing problem with recent incidents in Highland and this welcome campaign sends a clear message to stay off the tracks, stay home and stay safe.

“Many people fail to understand the danger they put themselves and others in when they make the choice to step on the track. Research has indicated that this is a persistent issue – particularly amongst boys and young adults aged 11 – 18 years old.

“We know that there are often increases in trespass incidents at differing times of year, and this often includes the summer holidays. With the current lockdown restrictions in place and young people not in a formal school setting there is a fear that this could lead to more incidents that normal, so this campaign and message is an important and timely one.”

Further information:

Network Rail works closely with the British Transport Police to keep Scotland’s Railway secure and trespassers and vandals will be prosecuted.

The public can also help to keep the railway safe by contacting Network Rail’s 24-hour helpline on 03457 114141 to report any locations where trespassers are gaining access to the tracks.

To find out more about the dangers of railway trespass, visit, the campaign led by Network Rail and the wider rail industry to address the issue of trespass on the railway.

MSP asks questions about tragic outbreak of Covid-19 at Skye’s Home Farm Care Home

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has asked the Health Minister Jeane Freeman about the tragic outbreak of Covid-19 at Home Farm Care Home on Skye.

During Topical Questions today she said:

“I am deeply distressed for the residents and staff at Home Farm Care Home.

“A constituent with a relative in the home has told me she raised concerns with senior management of the company about its handling of the pandemic and the lack of PPE for staff. She was also concerned staff were being taken in from other care homes without a period of isolation.

“I have written to the Cabinet Secretary and put down a written question asking on behalf of another constituent for a protocol for Care Homes in this Pandemic and have had no response.

“When will there be a protocol for Care Homes to prevent tragedies such as this one in Skye?”

Jeane Freeman replied: “The guidance to care homes is clear and that guidance is that residents should be looked after in their own rooms, there should be no communal socialising or meal times, that visits should be stopped and there should be no transfer of staff from one care home to another because all of this is about breaking the transmission route. That I think is a protocol of type (…) but I would like to point out, however, that many of the issues that members are raising are issues where private care home providers where the majority of the outbreaks are, have not, in some instances, appeared to follow the guidance that we require them to follow and that is why as government we are now taking a more direct intervention route in those cases.”

Rhoda raised her question after a relative of a Home Farm Care Home resident contacted her for support saying she had raised concerns weeks ago with HC-One which owns the care home about staff not wearing PPE.

The relative also claimed that she was aware HC-One was moving its own staff between its care homes after Home Farm went into lockdown on March 12 without adhering to seven-day self-isolation rules.

She contacted Rhoda last night saying she was shocked and distressed to see how her relative’s health had deteriorated in the last few days since being diagnosed with Covid-19 in the care home.

The woman, who does not want to be named, told Mrs Grant: “The sheer volume of this explosion at Home Farm has knocked everybody for six. Hopefully my husband is going to pull through this. But that doesn’t change my stance that somebody is responsible for letting that virus into the home. I am not condemning the care home staff in any way though because I don’t believe they are to blame. They have provided wonderful care to my husband over the years.”

Speaking afterwards, Rhoda said she would be raising this issue further with the Scottish Government as well as the owner of the care home HC-One, The Care Inspectorate and NHS Highland.

She said: “This is terrible. It’s shocking. This woman, who until lockdown was visiting her husband six days a week, has managed to see him yesterday on webcam for the first time in a week and the sight of him lying in bed desperately ill miles away from her is something no-one should ever have to see. We need to find out why the virus has spread so quickly to so many in this care home and why earlier mass testing was not carried out. There are urgent questions that need to be answered.”


Rhoda Grant seeks urgent questions on Covid-19 cases at Skye care home


Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is urgently seeking answers from NHS Highland about the outbreak of Coronavirus at Home Farm care home on Skye.

Mrs Grant contacted NHS Highland as early as March 26 after a constituent, who had relatives in a care home, asked about the general protocol if residents were to be kept out of hospital and have appropriate treatment as well as palliative care where required.

Questions were asked about protective equipment, oxygen and other necessary supplies for care homes, plus the recruitment of additional staff for care homes and particularly more staff qualified to deal with the health complications of the virus.

“I raised this because of people’s fear that an incident like this could happen and I am so distressed to see such a serious situation on Skye,” said Mrs Grant.

“There are urgent questions that need to be answered, including about testing and tracing on the island, especially with reports that a case of Covid-19 was previously found in Broadford.

“Why weren’t families, residents and staff informed and tested then and when it comes to Home Farm, why did the virus spread so quickly to so many and why was there not earlier mass testing?

“In the meantime, my thoughts are with staff and residents on Skye, both at the care home and in the wider community.”

Mrs Grant said she welcomed the fact that a mobile testing unit was being dispatched to the island and urged people to stick to the advice, to stay at home apart from the exceptions laid out in the regulations: daily exercise, shopping for necessities, animal welfare or medical need.  


“Scottish Labour has pressed for a proper contingency plan for Scotland’s crisis hit care homes and an expansion of testing to the level advised by the WHO,” she added. “This Government cannot continue to let the most vulnerable in our society down.  We must test, trace and isolate to stop this virus spreading.”