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Concerns remain as decision on Skye care home operator delayed again

Home Farm Care Home in Portree, Skye.
Home Farm Care Home in Portree, Skye.

Concerns remain over the running of a Skye care home where 10 residents have died from coronavirus, as a court again delayed a decision on its future operation.

Inspectors want to ensure problems at Home Farm in Portree will not recur once an NHS team called in to help run the facility leave.

The Care Inspectorate sought to remove HC-One as the care provider at the home after an inspection identified “serious and significant concerns” about the quality of care.

A decision on revoking the licence was deferred last month after it was said substantial improvements had been made at the home.

A resumed virtual hearing today delayed a decision for a further two weeks after the sheriff was told not all concerns had been removed.

The additional delay raised fresh concern among families of home residents who have complained of a lack of transparency on the failings of care and what improvements have been made.

During the hearing, Roddy Dunlop, QC for the Care Inspectorate, told Sheriff Eilidh Macdonald: “I am happy to recount improvements at the home but it would be wrong for me to suggest that the concerns have been completely allayed.”

He said the inspectors felt the improvements have been a result of and contingent on the intervention of NHS Highland, but added: “There will come a point in time – and it is anticipated that may be soon – at which NHS Highland require to depart.”

He added: “The concern on the part of the inspectorate is that a robust system with particular emphasis on management is in place for the departure of NHS Highland in order that there will be no reoccurrence of the problems that led to the application being made in the first place.”

Mr Dunlop submitted a motion seeking a further two weeks so “robust systems” could be put in place which address the remaining concerns.

Peter Gray, QC for HC-One, said he rejected entirely the suggestion that the improvements were solely due to NHS Highland. He said he would provide documentary evidence at the next calling on 24 June to demonstrate improvements were due to the collaborative efforts of his client and NHS Highland.

After the hearing, the Care Inspectorate said it had noted some improvement in the quality of care at the home.

“As we made clear in court today, we are seeking assurances from the care provider alongside our partners at NHS Highland that improvements will be sustained.

“We are monitoring the situation in Home Farm closely and will be visiting regularly to check on progress.”

NHS Highland said it will “continue to support a partnership approach to effectively manage the situation at Home Farm care home on Skye and we will have senior leadership and care provision in place on a 24/7 basis to support the recovery and sustainability plan until the improved standards of care are sustained.

“NHS Highland has a commitment from HC-One to continue working with us towards maintaining progress and stabilising leadership arrangements.”

It said, along with HC-One, it will be writing to the relatives and residents of the home to update them on the situation.

John Kirk, managing director, HC-One Scotland, welcomed the court decision, which he said: “recognises the significant positive progress we have made and our ongoing commitment to delivering the best possible care at Home Farm.

“We look forward to continuing to support residents, their relatives and our colleagues as we continue to enhance the service we provide at the home and ensuring that we always prioritise the health, safety and wellbeing of our residents.

“We recognise there is more to do and we are committed to delivering a consistently high quality service at Home Farm. We will build on the work that we have undertaken so far, and ensure all improvements are sustained for the long term.”

He said the company is preparing a longer-term sustainability and development plan which will be finalised with the Care Inspectorate and NHS Highlands.

Diane Smith, whose mother is a home resident, said she is frustrated and concerned that families have not seen the Care Inspectorate report and don’t know details of the failings that have occurred or the improvements made.

“I am concerned that things are still not right in the home. There is also concern that NHS involvement cannot go on indefinitely – so what are the implications of that on the care of our loved ones?

“The residents in Home Farm are paying a lot of money to HC-One to be cared for and yet they seem to be treated as second class citizens and the family members looking out for their wellbeing are still being kept in the dark and apart from their loved ones.”

Skye councillor John Gordon, whose father died in the home, said:”The continued secrecy surrounding the Care Inspectorate reports and the court action is unhelpful and creates speculation and rumours. It’s a worrying time and lack of decision-making and a more strategic approach is very disappointing.

“There is something fundamentally wrong behind the scenes that no one is being told about.”