Complaints recorded about care homes in Lothians hits highest number in five years
The Lothians has seen the highest number of complaints about care homes in five years, while figures show a huge overall drop in watchdog probes.
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A total of 278 complaints were received in 2020/2021, up from 265 the previous year and higher than the previous four years, according to fresh figures from the Care Inspectorate
The worst five homes – all privately run – accounted for more than a fifth of the total raised in the Lothians. The region also saw more than 600 deaths directly from Covid or where the virus was mentioned on death certificates.
Complaints were made about 82 homes across the Lothians in the last year with 44 – more than half - raised about homes in the capital.
But there has been a massive overall drop across the country in the number of investigations carried out into concerns raised by family members, carers and staff about the standards of care.
The findings have sparked fresh calls from leading charity Age Scotland for a full inquiry into the handling of the pandemic in care homes.
Family members of those who have died during the pandemic have also called for a full inquiry.
It follows more than 3,300 deaths in Scottish care homes linked to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, with the scale of the tragedy leading to the Scottish government being accused of failing to protect vulnerable residents.
Of the 20 facilities with the most complaints in the Lothians 16 were privately run.
Those included Drummond Grange in Lasswade which received the highest number of complaints overall, with 16 related to healthcare, infection control, nutrition and dignity/privacy.
Edinburgh home Northcare Manor was the second highest with 13 complaints, while Victoria Manor had 11 complaints. The Leith care home also had the highest total number of Covid related deaths of any care home in Edinburgh at 25.
As Covid-19 ripped through the country's social care sector just five per cent of complaints made about care homes for older people were investigated by the Care Inspectorate in 2020/21 – despite more than a quarter being raised by staff members.
Just 29 care homes across Scotland suffered more than 20 deaths, meaning almost half of the worst-hit care also had some of the highest complaint rates in the country.
These include Northcare Manor, Braid Hills Nursing Centre, and Victoria Manor Nursing Home in Edinburgh and Drummond Grange Nursing Home in Midlothian.
The latest figures from the Care Inspectorate, obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, uncovered how efforts to cut the number of visits to facilities led to the number of completed investigations falling drastically from an average of 52 per month to ten per month last year.
Adam Stachura, Head of Policy and Communications at Age Scotland, said: "It’s very concerning that so few care home complaints were investigated during the pandemic, particularly as social care was so heavily impacted by it. There is no doubt that in the early days and weeks of the first lockdown public services were working desperately hard to adapt, but there comes a point when you expect and need them to have normal service resumed. I think at times it has taken too long for this to happen.
"Clearly family members and staff had a significant number of concerns and will feel let down by the response, or lack of it. Older people in Scotland deserve the highest quality of care and complaints should be addressed in a timely and transparent manner. Family members who couldn’t or are still unable to visit relatives deserve reassurance that their complaints are heard and action taken.”
"A full and open inquiry remains the only sure-fire way to ensure mistakes and failings are never repeated. Getting answers is crucial, especially for the families of the thousands who have sadly lost their lives to Covid-19.”
A spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said: "In March 2020, in line with guidance from Directors of Public Health and after consultation with the Scottish Government, we rapidly adapted the way we worked because it was critical to minimise the spread of the virus, to keep people safe.
"Part of this meant on-site complaint investigations had to be limited to those that were deemed essential following an enhanced risk assessment. It is important to note that there are a number of ways we handle concerns when they are raised with us. Every concern raised is risk-assessed and dealt with appropriately and proportionately.”
"Complaint investigation is one important part of our scrutiny work. Complaints inform our wider work which includes intelligence gathering about care services and subsequently unannounced inspections of care services as required.”
"Where we have serious concerns about a care service we do not hesitate to take action to keep people safe.
"The Care Inspectorate continually reviews our learning and experience across all our work to improve how we support care services.”