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Scottish Government rejects Highlands and Islands MSP's nationalisation call for care homes on sell-off list – operator HC-One which has homes in Inverness and Invergordon is planning to sell a number of its Scottish properties

By Ian Duncan

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Rhoda Grant MSP.
Rhoda Grant MSP.

The Scottish Government has rejected Labour Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant’s call for stricken care homes to be nationalised – she had raised fears for five care homes in her constituency which could be put on the market.

The move followed news earlier this month that HC-One is planning to sell 52 of its UK properties – including 10 in Scotland.

HC-One's Highlands and Islands care homes include: Moss Park at Fort William, Blair Buidhe in Stornoway, Castle Gardens in Invergordon, Cradlehall in Inverness, and Kintyre in Argyll.

The Highlands and Islands MSP wrote earlier this month to Jeane Freeman, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, asking the government if it would take the homes under public ownership.

And now, the government has issued the MSP with a reply stating it does not believe nationalisation would address the problems lying at the heart of the care home sector.

Pointing to an independent review of Adult Social Care in Scotland, the reply written on behalf of the “overstretched” health secretary by Gillian Barclay, the Scottish Government’s deputy director of Social Care and Delivery Division, said evidence within it suggested nationalisation would “not in and off itself” improve outcomes for people using care.

Mrs Grant said this would be a blow for care home staff, residents and their families, but has vowed to continue to press for the need.

She believes transferring ownership to NHS Highland would give security to the residents, their relatives and the staff who care for them.

She said that the health board had set a precedent by bringing HC-One’s Skye care home facility, Home Farm, on board last year. The move came after a major coronavirus outbreak at the setting in which a number of residents died. HC-One came close to being stripped of its operating licence after “serious and significant” concerns were raised about the management of the facility.

Mrs Grant said: “The SNP government is saying it has adopted Labour’s proposals for a National Care Service, but their watered-down version will only lead to centralisation.

"Nationalising the care home sector would not cost very much more because the public purse already pays 80 per cent of care home fees, which includes the capital costs as well as the revenue costs.

"The refusal to go down this route, after everything that has happened in the last 12 months, really sickens me. Adult social care cannot continue to be about corporate profit, tax avoidance and shareholder dividends. It should be about human dignity. Public services should be run for people not profit, for public interest instead of private markets.”

Mrs Grant said she would keep the pressure on the Scottish Government to bring the care homes, and others, under public ownership and added: "The Scottish Government’s primary aim, throughout this period, should be to see the best possible care for the residents. These homes should be brought under public control. We would be talking about better care for our elderly, and a stable, well-paid and valued workforce.”

HC-One’s care homes sell off was announced earlier this month – a spokeswoman from HC-One previously said that, while the company was planning to sell 52 of its UK properties, it was also planning to refurbish more than 200 of its care homes, alongside an ongoing new build programme.

The company said it also plans to close four care homes south of the border.

It said the facilities being sold were “in areas where we feel our communities would be better served by a local operator in conjunction with other local services”.

Related article: Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant presses the Scottish Government to bring stricken HC-One care homes under public ownership following this week's announcement that the operator plans to sell 10 of its Scottish properties

Related article: GMB union reacts to news that care home operator HC-One, which has homes in Inverness and Invergordon, plans to sell 10 of its Scottish properties

Related article: UPDATE: Care home operator HC-One, which has homes in Inverness and Invergordon, responds to criticism from the GMB union over its plans to sell 10 of its Scottish properties

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