A care group has questioned the fairness of a watchdog’s inspections approach during the coronavirus pandemic after it emerged local authority homes are far less likely to be inspected than private ones.

Renaissance Care said analysis of a freedom of information (FOI) response it received from the Care Inspectorate found council-run homes, which account for around 15% of all care homes in Scotland, had received under 5% of visits since March 23.

The private firm said the response showed there have been 299 inspections carried out by the watchdog since that date, with 260 (87%) of those in independent homes and 25 (8.4%) in voluntary or not-for-profit homes.

Just 14 (4.7%) were in homes run by local authorities, Renaissance Care said.

Renaissance Care said if the sectors were treated equally, the number of inspections at local authority homes should be more than three times higher.

If 15% of the 299 visits had been to local authority homes there would have been 45 visits to such facilities.

HeraldScotland:

Robert Kilgour, who runs Renaissance Care, submitted the FOI request and said the results show care homes are not being treated equally.

He said: “Covid makes no distinction between independent, voluntary or local authority homes but it appears unarguable from these official statistics that the Care Inspectorate regime does.

“Many operators in the independent and voluntary sector have been harbouring growing suspicions that we are being subjected to a far higher frequency of inspections than our counterparts in the local authority sector and these statistics certainly confirm that view.

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“If the disparity had been a small one, no-one would be asking questions, but these figures show very starkly that local authority care home inspections are running at just a third of the level you would reasonably expect, given they account for 15% of the sector in Scotland.

“It’s such a glaring difference that it raises serious and fundamental questions about the inspection approach being taken.”

Mr Kilgour said it is “vital” there is full transparency and consistency across the sector.

He said: “It is essential, if we are to protect residents and staff as much as humanly possible, that all care homes are subjected to full and proper scrutiny, but that approach must be consistent, regardless of who is operating them.

“I would ask that the Care Inspectorate and the Scottish health minister investigate this significant difference in inspections and answer the question: ‘Why are far fewer local authority homes being visited?”

HeraldScotland:

Renaissance Care operates 15 care homes across Scotland and has a workforce of 1,100 people.

A Care Inspectorate spokesman said: “During the pandemic, the Care Inspectorate has focused inspection activity on services that need the most support.

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“Where we have identified areas of concern we have reported on these and where we have needed to take further action to support improvement we have not hesitated to do so.

“We are in regular contact with care services in Scotland who are working hard under challenging circumstances to provide good quality care.

“The Care Inspectorate continues to offer support, advice and guidance to care services to enable them to continue to do that.”

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.