Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said a review should be held into Scotland’s care home sector, as Police Scotland confirmed it is investigating the deaths of three care home residents.
Officers are investigating the deaths of three women at Home Farm Care Home in Portree, Skye, amid a coronavirus outbreak there which claimed 10 lives.
NHS Highland has stepped in to play a greater role in running the HC-One facility after the Care Inspectorate raised concerns and began legal action, as 30 other residents and 29 staff tested positive.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We can confirm we are investigating the circumstances of the deaths of three women, aged 84, 86 and 88, at Home Farm Care Home on Skye. Inquiries are continuing.”
A HC-One spokeswoman said the company will fully cooperate with any investigations.
She added: “We recognised that improvements were needed at Home Farm and therefore apologise to our residents, their families, and the local community.
“The safety and wellbeing of our residents is our top priority and we have already made significant progress.”
Earlier this month, the Lord Advocate said all care home deaths from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 must be reported to the Crown.
A Crown Office spokesman said: “The Crown’s reporting requirements in respect of Covid-related deaths allow for a multi-agency response, and for appropriate investigations to be made in light of the specific circumstances.
“It would not be appropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.”
Separately, police are investigating complaints at Springvale care home in Lennoxtown, near Glasgow, but said this does not relate either to deaths or Covid-19.
Ms Freeman faced questions over the coronavirus impact on Scotland’s care homes at the Scottish Government’s briefing on Sunday.
Asked whether a full-scale review of the sector is required, she said a review should be held into the structure and funding of the care home sector in Scotland – currently a mix of homes run by the private sector, charities, not-for-profit organisations and local authorities.
She said: “I do believe that that is something that we need to look to as we go forward.
“Right now, of course, our focus is dealing on this pandemic but I think it has shone a light on a number of areas where there have been improvements we might want to hold onto and other areas where we might want to look for improvements in the future.”
Earlier, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said Ms Freeman should “come clean” over the scale of discharging untested hospital patients into care homes.
Scottish Government delayed discharge figures indicated 921 patients were released from hospitals into care homes in March, but the minister did not announce mandatory testing of all new care home residents until April 21.
Mr Leonard has raised concerns over the figures when the Health Secretary previously suggested around 300 people had been discharged to care homes.
She has since said the information was given in error and apologised.
He said: “The impact of coronavirus in Scotland’s care homes has been little short of horrifying and it is clear that discharging infected patients to care homes has played a key role in fanning the flames of this virus.
“The Cabinet Secretary owes it to the people of Scotland and the families of the residents and staff affected to come clean over the failure of the Government to protect the most vulnerable.”
Ms Freeman told the briefing the decision to release patients who were able to leave hospital to their own homes and care homes was made to ensure the NHS was not overwhelmed, saying: “I think that decision has to be judged as the correct one.”
She added: “As the First Minister has said I too – if I had known everything I know now had known then – then we may have made different decisions about whether or not every patient who is being discharged from hospital, who was a Covid patient, was tested to ensure that they were negative.
“What is the case is that they were discharged from hospital because they were clinically well.”