Scottish Government rejects nationalisation call for care homes on sell-off list

MSP Rhoda Grant is leading calls for care homes on controversial sell-off list to be taken under the control of NHS Highland.

The Scottish Government has rejected Labour MSP’s Rhoda Grant’s call for care homes to be nationalised.

Mrs Grant raised fears for five cares homes in her constituency, which are going on the market.

Moss Park at Fort William, Blair Buidhe in Stornoway, Castle Gardens in Invergordon, Cradlehall in Inverness, and Kintyre in Argyll, are among 52 care homes being sold by HC-One, the UK’s largest care homes company.

The Highlands & Islands MSP wrote earlier this month to Jeane Freeman, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, asking the government if it would take the homes under public ownership.

And now, the government has issued the MSP with a reply stating it does not believe nationalisation would address the problems lying at the heart of the care home sector.

Pointing to an independent review of Adult Social Care in Scotland, the reply written on behalf of the “over-stretched” health secretary by Gillian Barclay, the Scottish Government’s deputy director of Social Care and Delivery Division, said evidence within it suggested nationalisation would “not in and off itself” improve outcomes for people using care.

Mrs Grant said this would be a blow for care home staff, residents and their families, but has vowed to continue to press for the need.

She believes transferring ownership to NHS Highland would give security to the residents, their relatives and the staff who care for them.

She said that the health board had set a precedent by bringing HC-One’s Skye care home facility, Home Farm, on board last year. The move came after a major Coronavirus outbreak at the setting in which a number of residents died. HC-One came close to being stripped of its operating licence after “serious and significant” concerns were raised about the management of the facility.

Mrs Grant said: “The SNP government is saying it has adopted Labour’s proposals for a National Care Service, but their watered-down version will only lead to centralisation. Nationalising the care home sector would not cost very much more because the public purse already pays 80 per cent of care home fees, which includes the capital costs as well as the revenue costs. The refusal to go down this route, after everything that has happened in the last 12 months, really sickens me. Adult social care cannot continue to be about corporate profit, tax avoidance and shareholder dividends. It should be about human dignity. Public services should be run for people not profit, for public interest instead of private markets.”

She added: “We will keep the pressure on the Scottish Government to bring those five care homes, and others, under public ownership. The Scottish Government’s primary aim, throughout this period, should be to see the best possible care for the residents. These homes should be brought under public control. We would be talking about better care for our elderly, and a stable, well-paid and valued workforce.”

HC-One’s care homes sell off was announced earlier this month.

The company said it also plans to close four care homes south of the border.

It said the facilities being sold were “in areas where we feel our communities would be better served by a local operator in conjunction with other local services”.