NHS Highland needs to step up and take charge of three closure-threatened care homes in the north, a major trade union has said.
GMB Scotland said the health board must intervene to protect residents and staff.
It has written to MPs and MSPs across the north seeking support for the takeovers.
The move comes after operator HC-One announced five care homes across the region would be among 52 to be sold or closed across the UK.
HC-One announced the closure of Castle Gardens Care Home in Invergordon last month, putting 48 jobs at risk.
The company also plans to sell its care homes in Cradlehall, Inverness and Moss Park in Fort William.
GMB believes Skye care home takeover set precedent
GMB Scotland organiser John McCartney said the need for urgent action is clear.
He has called on NHS Highland to act.
Mr McCartney said: “Residents are also now being forced to move to an entirely new service. This can be disruptive to the care they need and may require family members to travel further to visit their loved ones.
“This is especially disruptive to those who have been diagnosed with dementia. They are dependent on the existing relationships and environment that they live with.
“It is therefore vital that a future for the home and its workers is secured.”
GMB believes a precedent was set by NHS Highland when it forced the sale of the Home Farm care home in Skye in 2020.
The health board was also a factor in Argyll and Bute Council’s purchase of Kintyre Care Home in Campbeltown.
Both of those cares homes were owned by HC-One.
Mr McCartney added: “If Scotland is to have a social care system that meets peoples’ care needs and values care workers, these homes must also be brought under NHS Highland.”
How have NHS Highland and HC-One responded?
HC-One announced the closure of Castle Gardens in Invergordon last month, blaming staff shortages.
In the aftermath, authorities in the Highlands said they were “working proactively” with HC-One to secure the future of the care homes.
When asked about the current situation by the Press and Journal, both organisations said talks were still ongoing.
A spokeswoman for NHS Highland said the health board’s primary concern was caring and supporting the residents and families affected by the Castle Gardens closure.
It is also providing assurances about employment for the staff there.
The spokeswoman added: “We are actively working in partnership with the current provider, HC-One.
“This will ensure that residents are moved to an appropriate alternative care setting.”
A spokeswoman for HC-One said the operator was doing everything it can to support its residents in Invergordon.
On the future of the homes in Inverness and Fort William, she added: “HC-One, NHS Highland and Highland Council continue to work proactively together to find a solution to how high-quality care can be delivered at these homes in a sustainable way.
“We are exploring all options to ensure the continued availability of these services.”
Care sector facing huge challenges
With nothing concrete yet, fears about the future of the Cradlehall and Moss Park homes remain.
But the struggles faced by HC-One are not unique.
Demand on adult social care is at an all-time high following the pandemic.
Despite that, NHS Highland has fewer care home beds and significant gaps in community services.
A special meeting between the health service and the council held last November was told the sector was at risk of collapse in parts of the north.