Sturgeon speeds up care home inspection reforms

The Elsie Inglis care home

The Elsie Inglis care home

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IMPROVEMENTS to the inspection of care homes following the Elsie Inglis case are being accelerated amid warnings that the weakness in the system must be removed as soon as possible.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced in September that she was reversing a reduction in the frequency of inspections, which came into effect in April and could have left a gap of two years between inspections.

The new system, with all care homes subjected to an unannounced annual inspection, was expected to be implemented in April next year. But now Ms Sturgeon has said it will be introduced in early February.

A report by the Scottish Parliament’s health committee, following its inquiry into the regulation of care for older people, said the switch should happen as soon as possible.

It warned: “The committee considers that, until the increased frequency is implemented, a potential weakness in the regulatory system remains.”

The committee launched its inquiry following the death of a resident at the Elsie Inglis nursing home in Edinburgh in May, which sparked a police investigation.

The home in Abbeyhill was closed following the death of 59-year-old Lynn Beveridge. An 87-year-old male resident died the following week after being moved to a private home.

Witnesses who gave evidence to the committee cited Elsie Inglis as an example of a home where there had been a dramatic drop in the standard of care over a short period.

In a written submission, Age Scotland said the home had received a good rating for quality of care and support in October 2010 but was judged “unsatisfactory” across the board just six months later.

It continued: “It is important to ask the question why it took the death of a woman to highlight the poor standards.”

The committee report said it was vital that service users, carers and relatives were engaged in the inspection regime and it recommended a review of national care standards.

Labour’s former health minister Malcolm Chisholm, MSP for Edinburgh North and Leith, who introduced a system of two inspections a year, one of them unannounced, when he was in government, welcomed the decision to reverse the move to two-yearly inspections.

He said: “The quicker they do it the better. The problem is Care Inspectorate lost a lot of staff in preparation for the new regime.”

In answer to a parliamentary question, Ms Sturgeon said: “I will shortly bring forward regulations on the increased inspection frequency for certain older people’s services which will come into force by the beginning of February. This will be the minimum inspection frequency and the Care Inspectorate will continue to inspect more frequently on the basis of the intelligence it receives.”

A Care Inspectorate spokesman said: “We are to begin the recruitment process of new staff imminently which will ensure we are in position to respond to the changes of frequency of inspections by next February.

“This enhanced resource will also provide additional reassurance that poorly performing or high risk services are being rigorously inspected and improvements demanded.”