Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is seeking emergency powers to allow the Scottish Government to take over failing care homes when lives are at risk from Covid-19.
The new law was proposed after the Care Inspectorate started legal action to take over the running of the Home Farm care home on Skye, where the coronavirus has claimed the lives of nine residents.
The Care Inspectorate is attempting to revoke the licence of the home’s owners, HC-One, and prevent the organisation from continuing to manage the facility.
Under Ms Freeman’s proposals, ministers would have the power to apply to a sheriff court for an emergency order to temporarily manage a care home.
The Care Inspectorate already has the power to make an application to the sheriff to cancel the registration of a service where it has concerns about the life, safety and well-being of any residents.
I believe that it is critical that a clear safety net is in place to ensure that if a care provider was unable to continue to deliver services, that the people who depend on those services should not be impacted.”
Jeane Freeman, Health Secretary
If the new legislation is approved at Holyrood, ministers would be able to exercise the powers before a sheriff has reached a conclusion to make sure support can be put in place as quickly as possible.
An application would have to be made to a sheriff for an emergency order to be made.
An order could be tabled if it appeared to the sheriff that there was a “serious risk” to the life, health or wellbeing of any resident of the care home from Covid-19.
The emergency powers could be imposed for up to 12 months and care home owners will have the right to appeal against the decision.
Once a care home’s registration is cancelled, ministers will be able to hand over its operation to health board or local authority.
It is of paramount importance that anyone living in a care home or using other care services, as well as those supporting them, are provided with the best possible care.”
The planned emergency powers are being put forward as a Scottish Government amendment to the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill and will be considered by MSPs at Holyrood next week.
Ms Freeman said: “The coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted social care services around the world. In the face of this challenge, staff in care homes across Scotland have been working incredibly hard to care for their residents.
“It is of paramount importance that anyone living in a care home or using other care services, as well as those supporting them, are provided with the best possible care. We will do everything we can to ensure that remains the case. We are fortunate that this high standard of care is the norm for the vast majority of care home residents in Scotland.
“However, for the duration of this pandemic I believe that it is critical that a clear safety net is in place to ensure that if a care provider was unable to continue to deliver services, that the people who depend on those services should not be impacted. Our proposals build on established powers and would put beyond doubt that immediate action can be taken if continuity of care was jeopardised for any reason.
“The Care Inspectorate has a robust inspection regime for the care sector and the further steps we are hoping to take, if the parliament agrees, help bolster that work and would only be exercised as a last resort. There is guidance available for care providers on how to manage the current situation, which the Scottish Government expects to be followed.
“Every resident in our care homes, their family and the staff who work there should be kept safe from harm and we are prepared to take action where this is not the case.”