The company running a Skye care home where 10 residents have died from Covid-19 and dozens more are infected have been given another three weeks to keep their operating licence.
It was expected that HC-One’s licence to continue operations at Home Farm Care Home in Portree would be revoked in a virtual courtroom hosted by Inverness Sheriff Court and Sheriff Eilidh Macdonald today.
But after an agreement between the company and other health care operatives including NHS Highland, it was decided to ask the court to defer consideration to allow all concerned in the welfare of the residents to minimise disruption and afford an opportunity for all concerns to be addressed.
If this is successfully done by June 10, then it is expected that HC One will be allowed to continue running the home.
An application had been made by Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland to end HC One’s involvement at the facility where a total of 30 residents and 29 staff have tested positive for the virus.
This follows an inspection by the Care Inspectorate last week which raised “serious and significant concerns” about the running of the home by HC One. It lodged an application to suspend its licence last Thursday. NHS Highland then moved in to take control until the court had decided on the legal application.
But the legal representative for SCSWS, Roddy Dunlop QC told Sheriff Macdonald that it had been agreed between both parties, The Highland Council and NHS Highland, that, to prevent “the nuclear option”of suspending the licence “the residents can continue with as little disruption as possible.”
Mr Dunlop added: “NHS Highland have taken steps to address the concerns and it has been seen that there have been substantial improvements but not all concerns have been fully addressed. There is a joint motion to continue consideration of the motion so then there can be continued monitoring of the home with the help of NHS Highland.
“If all concerns are resolved, then this need go no further. Weekly inspections will continue for the next three week and regular dialogue will be on-going.” Mr Dunlop said.
HC One’s representative, Peter Gray said it was agreed by the company. He added: “Matters are being treated extremely seriously by those I represent and that they should be addressed robustly to ensure that the necessary improvements are made.”
Sheriff Macdonald deferred the motion and added: “The community of Skye deserve a rapid solution and it is right that all parties have come together to try and deliver that.”
On Sunday it was confirmed that a 10th resident had died at Home Farm care home in Portree.
A total of 30 residents and 29 staff have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Skye facility.In total, 207 residents have died in HC One’s Scottish facilities.
NHS Highland is now helping to run the home.
In a statement released on Monday, HC-One said: “The impact of Covid-19 on us, on the UK and the world is unprecedented, and there is a professional and public interest to learn about its impact and discuss this openly.
“Consequently, we have decided to share the number of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases and the number of residents who have sadly lost their lives, at a company level.”
HC-One said it was disappointed the Care Inspectorate had taken the legal action, adding that it was working with NHS Highland to implement a “robust action plan”.
Skye had no confirmed cases of Covid-19 prior to the outbreak at Home Farm. All but four of the home’s 34 residents have contracted the virus.
HC-One – the UK’s largest care home operator – brought in temporary staff from outside the island, but insisted these were from homes that were believed to be Covid-free.
New measures were introduced recently for health boards to be able to take over private care homes if they are failing.
Zoe Docherty, whose father Colin Harris was the sixth resident of Home Farm to die from Covid-19, previously said she hoped HC-One would “be held accountable for their negligence” towards staff and residents.
She said: “I’m really disappointed by the decision. I don’t think any of the improvements made at the home have been made by HC-One.
“The home has been slowly going down the pan and time and time again they have been given time to make improvements. I’m a bit baffled by the outcome, it just doesn’t make sense.
“I don’t want the home to shut as that would be horrible for people and it’s needed in the area. But for them to be given more time to make improvements- I can’t understand that.”
Skye councillor John Gordon, whose father John Angus also died at the home, said there are many unanswered questions following the court case: “Why was there such a rush to cancel their care licence last week, then today’s court result?
“NHS staff and HC-One have been working together in the home since the start of the virus outbreak, so what happened since the Care Inspectorate went into the home to court action this morning?”
He said the Care Inspectorate report has yet to be released and added: “We need some honesty, transparency and communication.”
He and fellow Skye councillors John Finlayson and Callum Munro said it is important care will continue to be provided on the island and it will be monitored.
Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant said while there has been improvements in care at the home “it is a bit sad that it took this to happen to get HC-One to get their act together.”
Local MSP Kate Forbes said she is pleased the Care Inspectorate took such robust action and will continue to monitor the situation.
“NHS Highland have already been providing support to residents in the home, and will continue to effectively run the home.”
During today’s hearing Roddy Dunlop, QC for the Care Inspectorate, said there have been substantial improvements at the home, but not all concerns have been fully addressed.
“If all concerns are resolved, then this need go no further. Weekly inspections will continue for the next three week and regular dialogue will be on-going.”
After the case, John Kirk, Managing Director, HC-One Scotland, welcomed the decision. He said the company will continue working with NHS Highland to progress a robust action plan and remains focused on delivering the best possible care, “both now and for the long term”.
NHS Highland said it will continue to support a partnership approach to effectively jointly address the situation at the home.
A spokesman for the Care Inspectorate said: “We are monitoring the situation in the home closely and will be visiting regularly to check on progress.”