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Operator of Home Farm Care Home on Skye is handed three week reprieve by Inverness sheriff over moves to remove its licence; the Portree care home has been badly hit by coronavirus, with 10 residents dying, and NHS Highland stepping in to help run it after 'serious' issues were identified by Care Inspectorate

By Ali Morrison

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Portree. Picture: Gary Anthony.
Portree. Picture: Gary Anthony.

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 (Wednesday).

But after 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 (SCSWS) 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.

Click here to read more coronavirus news.

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