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.”