Holyrood urged to tighten up scrutiny of care homes

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HEALTH Secretary Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to tighten regulation of care homes and beef up inspections in the wake of the crisis at the Elsie Inglis Nursing Home.

Former Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm, Labour MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith, said the home – closed in the wake of the death of 59-year-old Lynn Beveridge and a police and council probe – highlighted concerns about the frequency and scope of inspections.

In a debate at the Scottish Parliament, he said: “The failures identified from the recent case of the Elsie Inglis Nursing Home, in addition to one in ten care homes in Edinburgh now identified as being weak, raises serious wider questions over the regulation of care homes in this country.”

He said that under the new inspection rules, if a home has previously received “good” ratings and is assessed as “low risk”, the maximum frequency of inspection is 24 months.

The MSP continued: “Twenty-four months is simply too long. A great deal can change in 24 months. In October 2010, Elsie Inglis received a ‘good’ rating in the category of quality of care and support and, without complaints may not have been inspected again until October 2012.”

He told MSPs: “Although action has now been taken, concerns remain about how a care home could plummet from being well rated to the worst in the country in so short a time.

“This case raises serious questions over the inspection regime, and the dangers of leaving a home labelled ‘good’ to its own devices.” He said where homes had performed reasonably well, inspectors would only assess them on one of four quality themes, which meant there was no overall picture of the home on each inspection.

“If we look back at the Elsie Inglis reports of last year, we see several themes were described as ‘not assessed’. It seems that, if inspectors don’t know it’s bad, they’re not able to look, and if they don’t look they don’t know it’s bad.”

Replying to the debate, Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson, praised Mr Chisholm for raising the concerns and indicated that the Scottish Government was ready to look at changes to “enhance the existing system”.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com