NHS Highland secure ownership of Home Farm nursing home

The ownership of Home Farm nursing home on Skye has been secured NHS Highland, the Cabinet Secretary for Health has announced today.

Jeane Freeman confirmed the purchase of the home to the local health authority from private operators HC-One this afternoon during the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing.

The announcement brings an end to months of uncertainty for residents, their families and staff members at the home.

Ten residents died following an outbreak of coronavirus at the home in late April.

In May, the Care Inspectorate applied to the court to cancel HC-One’s registration of Home Farm over “serious and significant concerns”

However, in August the Care Inspectorate announced that it had ceased its application to cancel HC-One’s service registration of Home Farm in Portree following careful monitoring of the nursing home.

Speaking today, the health secretary said that NHS Highland had secured the purchase with £900,000 of additional funding from the Scottish Government, and added that the transfer of the home to NHS Highland would involve the transfer of the staff into the employment of the NHS with improved terms and conditions and job security.

Ms Freeman said the future ownership of the home by NHS Highland would also provide an assurance to people on Skye that the provision of residential nursing care in the community will continue.

Making the announcement, she said: “I’m pleased to announce that the wellbeing of the current residents of Home Farm, which has been a priority for the Scottish Government, has been secured by NHS Highland who are to purchase it from the current provider HC-One.

“You’ll remember some of the background to this I’m sure.

“At the end of April and following a complaint to the Care Inspectorate together with a notification of a COVID-19 outbreak, NHS Highland undertook comprehensive testing at the home which resulted in a significant number of residents and staff testing positive for the virus.

“The Care Inspectorate then undertook two inspections within a week of each other and following the second of these concluded that the living circumstances and quality of care was such that they applied to the court for an interim suspension order and cancellation of the care home’s registration under the powers that the Care Inspectorate have.

“NHS Highland stepped in to provide significant levels of care at the care home and improve the standards of care and cleanliness and to look after the residents and safeguard their wellbeing.

“As a result, the circumstances of care were improved, delivered by a warm and caring workforce under the leadership of NHS Highland. And in response to that improvement, there was evidence by continuing visits in July and August, the Care Inspectorate took the decision that the grounds for the emergency cancellation application no longer applied.”

She finished by saying that the government had worked closely with NHS Highland and the Care Inspectorate to ensure the long-term stability for residents and staff and significant improvements had been made to the quality of care offered at home farm with support from the health board, the Care Inspectorate, the Highland Council and the staff at the home including infection prevention and control, use of PPE, training of staff, cleanliness of premises and the maintenance of adequate staffing levels.

Reacting to the announcement, Skye MSP Kate Forbes said: “The constituency MSP for Skye said: “The past few months have been distressing for every relative and friend of the residents of Home Farm. I understand that the Care Inspectorate reports demonstrate why they were right to take swift, robust, legal action against the independent owners of Home Farm, HC-One.

“Since that point, NHS Highland have effectively been running the home in terms of management, staff and support and the standard of care has rapidly and significantly increased.

“I am delighted that NHS Highland will be taking over the care home formally with financial support from the Scottish Government.

“I have said from the very beginning that Home Farm must continue to offer care in Skye over the long term. This announcement allows for that to happen.

“I know that nothing will compensate for the distress, grief, and agonies of the last few months for those that have lost loved ones or been worried about the health of their friends and family but I hope this announcement provides the reassurance that care home residents in Skye will receive the highest standard of care in Portree.”