Pledge to protect Southern Cross residents in Scotland

From Democracy Live: The first minister pledged protection for care residents

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First Minister Alex Salmond has pledged to protect the thousands of elderly Scots looked after by under-threat care home provider Southern Cross.

He said the UK's biggest care home provider was "on the brink of administration" due to finance issues.

Mr Salmond said a plan was in place to ensure residents would continue to be looked after, whatever the outcome.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray called for a summit on the "crisis in care in Scotland".

His call came after the deaths of two former elderly residents at Edinburgh's Elsie Inglis care home, which prompted a police investigation and the closure of the facility.

Southern Cross, which has 31,000 residents across the UK, has told the BBC it is confident a solution will be found to its financial problems.

Speaking during first minister's questions, Mr Salmond said: "It is true that Southern Cross is on the brink of administration.

"It's also true that rather more than 3,000 of the residents are in Scotland."

The first minister said council umbrella body Cosla, independent care home body Scottish Care and local authorities were ready to "make sure there's a continuity of care of the residents concerned".

Mr Salmond went on to raise concern over the use of private companies in the care and health sectors, advocated in the NHS, he said, by Labour.

He said the Southern Cross case "should be a cautionary note for those who seem to think that private intervention is either a solution in the health service or, indeed, the social care service".

Mr Gray said the Elsie Inglis deaths, a "25% cut" in the new care regulator, SCSWIS, and concerns from spending watchdog Audit Scotland that community health partnerships were failing all gave rise to concern.

"We face a crisis in care in Scotland," said Mr Gray.

"We need to hear the voices of the elderly, the disabled and the vulnerable in this parliament."

Mr Salmond said action taken at the Elsie Inglis home showed the inspection system was working well.

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