Highlands & Islands

Coronavirus: Legal bid to remove owners of infection-hit Skye care home

Home Farm care home
Image caption Seven residents have died at Home Farm, with almost all of its residents and many staff contracting the virus

The Care Inspectorate has taken legal action over the running of a private care home on Skye where seven residents have died in a coronavirus outbreak.

The inspectorate has asked the Sheriff Court to cancel the registration of the HC-One-owned Home Farm facility in Portree.

It follows an unannounced inspection of the home on Tuesday.

The Care Inspectorate said the visit raised "serious and significant concerns" about the quality of care.

So far, 30 of the home's 34 resident have tested positive for Covid-19, as well as 29 staff.

NHS Highland is already said by local MSP Kate Forbes to be effectively running the home, with additional NHS management, nursing and direct care resources being put in place with the aim of "improving and sustaining the appropriate quality of care".

The move by the Care Inspectorate could end HC-One's role as the care provider at the home, with the NHS taking over completely.

It could also potentially result in the home being closed and residents moving to alternative accommodation.

A spokesman for the Care Inspectorate said its priority was always the health and wellbeing of residents, and acknowledged that the situation was "difficult and distressing" for residents, their families and staff.

He added: "We have submitted an application to the sheriff court seeking cancellation of the care home's registration.

"This could mean new care arrangements will be put in place for residents at Home Farm care home."

Image caption An Army-run mobile testing unit has been set up on Skye following the outbreak

HC-One said it was disappointed the Care Inspectorate had taken the action, adding that it was working with NHS Highland to implement a "robust action plan".

A spokesman said: "We have accepted the shortcomings at Home Farm and apologise to our residents, their families, and the local community. We are fully committed to making significant improvements at the home and determined to put things right."

The company, which operates 56 homes in Scotland, has previously said it did not know the source of the infection, and insisted it was doing everything it could to keep residents and staff safe, including "seconding a number of Scottish workers" to help.

The Scottish government's health secretary, Jeane Freeman, said she supported action to ensure that all care homes are safe for residents.

Image caption NHS Highland is already said to be effectively running the care home

The outbreak at the care home, which was detected at the end of April, was the first time the virus had been confirmed on Skye.

An Army-run mobile testing unit was set up on the island following the outbreak.

Highland councillor John Gordon, whose father John Angus died with the virus in the care home, claimed that local people were being kept in the dark about the circumstances surrounding the outbreak.

'Lack of information'

He told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Everyone just wants clear honesty, even about the staff and residents who are recovering as well as those who are passing away.

"Our community is standing as one - everyone is concerned about the staff, the residents and their families.

"I think the lack of information coming out of the NHS, and even the council, is just a disgrace."

NHS Highland insisted there had been "significant engagement" with the community on Skye since the beginning of the pandemic, and that it was following national guidance on patient confidentiality.

The majority of coronavirus deaths in Scotland are currently happening in care homes - although the number of deaths has been falling over the past two weeks.

Scottish Care - which represents the independent care sector - has argued the Scottish government and health authorities had put too much focus on the ability of the NHS to cope when the pandemic started, rather than care home .

Its chief executive, Dr Donald Macaskill, said: "Priority was given to PPE (personal protective equipment) for the NHS as we tried to make sure there was enough capacity.

"We will have to look at the extent to which dealing with delayed discharge and placing individuals in care homes contributed to the spread of the virus."