SERIOUS safety failings, poor compliance with PPE and human rights breaches have been identified by elderly care home inspections in cases that have been described as “spine-chilling”.

Out of 31 homes inspected across Scotland, 42% were given the lowest possible rating of weak or unsatisfactory, none was described as “excellent” while four were issued with urgent improvement notices.

Many of the concerns related to how homes and staff are managing Covid-19 risks but inspectors also identified excessive use of physical restraint, residents not having enough access to fluids and inadequate support for those experiencing pain or distress.

The Care Inspectorate is now required to publish the findings of all its inspections fortnightly following pressure by Labour’s health spokeswoman, Monica Lennon, and in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The inspections focus on infection prevention, staffing and the wellbeing of residents. 

Ms Lennon said the latest reports were symptomatic of a “postcode lottery” of social care.

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She said: “The Care Inspectorate has uncovered spine-chilling examples of unsafe care and human rights breaches.”

Serious concerns were raised about infection prevention and control at Duncraggan Care Home in Glasgow, which is run by Keane Premier Healthcare Limited.

The use, storage and safe disposal of PPE,  cleaning of equipment and availability of handwashing facilities were all found to be sub-standard.

At Guthrie House in Edinburgh, run by the Four Seasons Healthcare Group, several areas of the home were described as “contaminated” while compliance with PPE was found to be poor. The home has been issued with an improvement notice. 

A total of 168 care homes have been inspected from June-October and out of those, almost a third (50) have been rated weak.

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At Wellmeadow Lodge in Newton Mearns, run by Care UK Limited, staff had not received training specific to Covid-19 and were not always using PPE correctly. The home was rated “weak” in all three categories – health and wellbeing of residents, infection control and staffing.

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Staff at Shoremill Care Home in Cromarty in the Highlands “did not have a good knowledge of infection prevention and control”, while at Braeburn Home in Edinburgh workers were said to be “lacking knowledge” about Covid-19. 

A follow-up inspection at Kingsgate Care Home in East Kilbride found that only one in seven requirements previously issued had been met in relation to training for aerosol generating procedures, where extra precautions are required to minimise risk of Covid and an urgent improvement notice has been issued.

Davidson House in Edinburgh, which is run by the Salvation Army, was rated “weak” for infection control while at Balhousie Huntly in Aberdeenshire staff did not wash hands frequently and PPE was not always used.

Inspectors raised concerns about “high levels” of restraint at ASC Orchard Court and Dalguise in Balbeggie, near Perth, which provides care for people with learning disabilities. The Care Inspectorate was sufficiently concerned to make adult protection referrals to health and social care bosses.

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In August, it emerged that hundreds of elderly patients were sent into care homes untested for Covid while dozens were transferred despite testing positive.

Critics of the policy have described it as “putting a match to tinder” in homes where almost 2,000 residents were to die in the pandemic.

At least two families are said to be considering legal action against the Scottish Government over the deaths of elderly relatives.

Ms Lennon said: “The Care Inspectorate has uncovered spine-chilling examples of unsafe care and human rights breaches.

“Poor cleanliness, inappropriate use of PPE and sloppy infection prevention and control are not acceptable. It’s worrying that some of these care homes were given time to improve but didn’t deliver. 

 “Inspectors have identified excessive use of physical restraint, residents not having enough access to fluids and inadequate support for those experiencing pain or distress.

 “This is inhumane and reinforces Scottish Labour’s concerns about the postcode lottery of care in Scotland’s care homes. “

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A follow-up inspection at Whitefield Lodge Care Home in Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire, run by Four Seasons Health Care Group, found serious concerns about staffing, infection control had not been met while

Westfield Home in Lockerbie, run by Mead Medical Services Ltd, was rated “weak” overall and in the infection control category.

Care homes which were rated highly included Lynemore in Grantown on Spey,  Jewel House in Edinburgh, Cowdray Club in Aberdeen and Craigbank Care Home in Glasgow.

Professor June Andrews, who is an expert in the care of older people and a published author, said the reports were of some concern but added: “Not every breach is as serious as another.” 

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She said: “Poor hygiene in the care home presumably increases the risk of infection being passed on from someone who has it, to someone who doesn’t within the home.

“The question I worry about is, what exactly was wrong that made them think infection control was not satisfactory? Did they see an actual or a possible hazard?

“For example, when they say that staff ‘did not know’ things how did they assess that?  

“Did they see dangerous practice or did they find staff failed to be able to answer a quiz or test?

“From a human point of view, if my mum was in a care home, and saw that they were not seen as being good enough at infection control, I’d want to know the specifics to assess the risk for my mum. Not every breach is as serious as another. “

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Everyone in Scotland has the right to safe, compassionate care which meets their needs and respects their rights.  

“Where areas of weakness are identified, a multi-agency approach helps to ensure that staff are supported to make those improvements.”