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NHS Highland 'must step in over care home closures and sales', warns GMB Scotland

By Philip Murray

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HC-One's Cradlehall Care Home in Inverness is up for sale, and the company's Castle Gardens Care Home in Invergordon (inset) is set to close.
HC-One's Cradlehall Care Home in Inverness is up for sale, and the company's Castle Gardens Care Home in Invergordon (inset) is set to close.

UNDER-threat care homes in Inverness and Easter Ross must be urgently taken over by NHS Highland, a top union has argued.

GMB Scotland made the call after one of the UK's biggest care home operators HC-One, announced that three Highland homes were on a list of 52 across the UK that it plans to close or sell off.

Locally, the Castle Gardens Care Home in Invergordon is facing the axe, while Cradlehall Court in Inverness is one of two Highland sites earmarked for sale.

The uncertainty for all three homes – and risk to dozens of jobs and residents – prompted the union to call on NHS Highland to step in.

It argues that there is precedent for NHS Highland intervening, after it previously stepped in to run Home Farm Care Home in Skye following a surge in Covid-19 deaths at the site during the pandemic.

Related: Inverness care workers warned over 'inappropriate behaviour' towards dementia patient

The union has now written to politicians seeking support for the takeovers and emergency support for at-risk homes, with John McCartney, a GMB Scotland organiser, saying the need for urgent action "is clear". and called on NHS Highlands to intervene.

He said: “Residents are also now being forced to move to an entirely new service which can be disruptive to the care they need and may require family members to travel further to visit their loved ones.

“This is especially disruptive to those who have been diagnosed with dementia and are dependent on the existing relationships and environment that they live with.

“It is therefore vital that a future for the home and its workers is secured.”

McCartney said: “If Scotland is to have a social care system that meets peoples’ care needs and values care workers, these homes must also be brought under NHS Highland.”

HC-One's Cradlehall Court Care Home in Inverness. Picture: Gary Anthony.
HC-One's Cradlehall Court Care Home in Inverness. Picture: Gary Anthony.

Responding to the union, NHS Highland said it was "actively engaging" with HC-One over the planned closures and sales, but did not say if it would step in to take over the running of the homes when that question was put to it.

A spokesman said: "First and foremost, that of prime importance to NHS Highland and the Highland Council is ongoing care and support to residents of Castle Gardens Care Homes and their families. We are actively working in partnership with the current provider, HC-One, to ensure that residents are moved to an appropriate alternative care setting.

"When faced with a care home closure NHS Highland and The Highland Council jointly undertake a review of a number of factors, including the position of the residents, the options for alternative provision in the area alongside the financial viability, staffing availability and the condition and maintenance requirements of the building.

"This also includes consideration of a range of current and future care models and services.

"NHS Highland are actively engaging with HC-One and provide assurance about sustaining employment for people affected by the care home closure."

Meanwhile, HC-One said it was working with NHS Highland and the council to find "a solution to how high-quality care can be delivered" at Cradlehall "in a sustainable way going forward and we are exploring all options to ensure the continued availability of these services.”

On the planned closure of its Castle Gardens home, a spokesman explained that HC-One had struggled to "build and retain" the size of care team needed for it "to consistently deliver our high standards of care that our residents rightly deserve".

They continued: “We fully understand how vital Castle Gardens has been to the local community. As such, we have sought to find a suitable new local care operator who could provide the targeted and intensive support the home needs to move forward positively.

HC-One's Castle Gardens Care Home in Invergordon.
HC-One's Castle Gardens Care Home in Invergordon.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we have not been able to find a solution to the challenges faced by this home, and we have had to consider how this situation has impacted our residents, colleagues, and the future of the care we are able to provide. Last month, we therefore had to make the incredibly difficult decision to begin the closure process at Castle Gardens.

“We have done everything possible to avoid having to reach this conclusion, but have sadly exhausted all other viable alternatives for this home. We understand how upsetting this news is for our residents, their loved ones, and our colleagues as well as the wider community we have been proud to serve.

“Our focus now is on continuing to support our residents and their loved ones to move to a new care placement that meets their needs, and on supporting our colleagues through the closure process. We are working closely with our partners at NHS Highland and the Highland Council throughout this process and we are grateful for their support.”

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