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Inverness Sheriff gives owners of Home Farm Care Home in Portree, Skye, another fortnight to completely satisfy them that they have made key improvements in wake of deaths of 10 residents during Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic

By Ali Morrison

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Home Farm care home in Portree.
Home Farm care home in Portree.

THE company running a Skye care home where 10 residents have died from Covid-19 have been given a further two weeks to completely satisfy a Sheriff that they can keep their operating licence.

For the past three weeks, NHS Highland has effectively been running the Home Farm Care Home in Portree where there have been multiple deaths and dozens of staff and residents infected by the deadly virus.

Sheriff Eilidh Macdonald had agreed, during a hearing conducted via various video links, with a motion by Roddy Dunlop QC for the Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWS) that a joint collaboration between the operators, HC One and NHS Highland should be allowed to continue to address the concerns that had arisen.

But today (Wednesday) Mr Dunlop said there had been progress but his client was not completely satisfied that the motion for interim suspension of the licence should be withdrawn.

He said: "There has been ongoing monitoring until 6pm last night. I am happy to recount that improvements at the home but it would be wrong for me to suggest that the concerns have been completely allayed.

"It is the sense of the inspectors that to an extent the improvements have been the result of and contingent on the intervention of NHS Highland and this cannot last forever. They will require to depart soon. And the concern on the part of the Inspectorate that a robust system of management is in place for the departure of NHS Highland in order that there will be no recurrence.

"I am not in a position to drop the motion," Mr Dunlop added.

But representative for HC One, Peter Gray disputed Mr Dunlop's view that the improvements were completely down to NHS Highland.

He said: "I wish to make it clear that I reject entirely that the suggestion that the improvements that have been made are solely due to the efforts of NHS Highland rather than those I represent."

Mr Gray said he would provide documentary evidence at the next calling which demonstrates that the improvements made were due to the collaborative efforts of his client and NHS Highlands.

He also undertook to provide the fullest information to the court in relation to the future management of the home and what processes will be in place as and when NHS Highland leave.

Sheriff Macdonald agreed to set another virtual hearing for June 24, saying that she accepted: "I appreciate it is extremely complex. We want to ensure that parties will be in a position very soon to indicate how this action is to be progressed further."

An application had been made by Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWS) to end HC-One’s involvement at the home where 30 residents and 29 staff have tested positive for the virus.

This followed a recent inspection by the Care Inspectorate which raised ‘serious and significant concerns’ about the running of the home by HC-One. It lodged an application to suspend its licence. NHS Highland moved in to take control until the court had decided on the legal application.

It then emerged after the first hearing in May that Police Scotland were investigating three deaths at the home.

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