INFECTION prevention was weak or unsatisfactory in half of the Scots care homes most recently checked by government regulators.

Almost a year on from the start of the pandemic, the latest round of inspection reports highlighted poor practice in 11 out of 22 care homes.

The inspection process changed last year, following the passing of emergency Covid legislation, with gradings focusing more closely on infection control and staffing. 

The Scottish Government said the fortnightly reports to parliament will continue until the threat of the virus is ‘substantially reduced’.

The Herald: Camley's Cartoon: Concerns over care home inspections.Camley's Cartoon: Concerns over care home inspections.

In the latest round of checks, 11 homes were graded ‘weak or unsatisfactory’ and five were said to be ‘adequate’ which means the strengths marginally outweigh weaknesses.

Labour’s Monica Lennon, who pushed for closer parliamentary scrutiny of Care Inspectorate reports, said it was shocking that so many providers were, ‘still struggling with the basics’.

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New guidelines were published yesterday by the Scottish Government, outlining a plan to resume indoor family visits by early March as efforts were getting underway to administer second vaccinations to the elderly.

The Health Secretary said two designated visitors will be permitted with two visits in total per week and said contact should become normal 'in all but exceptional circumstances, such as a COVID-19 outbreak. 

Seven care homes were issued with a letter of serious concern in the most recent checks, which require providers to take immediate action to safeguard residents, including Lythe Home in Buckie on the Moray Firth, which announced two weeks ago that it is to close by May 4.

There were significant concerns about the cleanliness and repair of the home, infection control practices and staffing while the use of cleaning chemicals was described as ‘unsafe’.

Inspectors also noted that residents were ‘not supported to keep active or pass their time in a meaningful way’. The owners of the home said they were ‘incredibly proud’ that it had reported no Covid-19 cases through the pandemic.

Woodside Care Home, Glenrothes run by major care provider HC-One, was also issued with a letter of serious concern.

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Cleanliness and the management of clinical waste was highlighted while staff were said to be failing to adhere to safe infection control practices.

A follow-up inspection three days later found that positive improvements had been made but inspectors ‘were not confident about the ability of the service to sustain a consistent attention to safe practice.’

The company said it was ‘deeply disappointed’ by the report’s findings and said action had been taken to ensure that improvements ‘are sustained’.

A spokeswoman said: “We acknowledge we fell short of the high standards our Residents rightfully expect and deserve, and have a comprehensive action plan in place, the implementation of which is being overseen by our senior regional team.”

Lorimer House Nursing Home in Edinburgh was rated ‘weak’ overall. Inspectors said there was inadequate staff access to PPE stations and clinical waste disposal bins while inspectors noted several soiled mattresses and mattress covers.

The Herald:

Westerfields Care Home in Paisley, was told to take immediate action after serious concerns were identified related to waste management and environmental cleaning.

Two further follow-up inspections found that action had been taken but further areas for improvement were identified in relation to infection prevention and control and another visit is scheduled.

A spokeswoman for the home, said: “Immediate action was taken to rectify these issues and the Care Inspectorate themselves noted that improvements have been made. We are now working together with the support of our external stakeholders to ensure these improvement are sustained and embedded.”

Gibson House in St Andrews, which is run by a charitable trust, was given the lowest rating for staffing and infection control.

A snap inspection on February 2 found that staff were not using or disposing of PPE in line with best practice, and it was not always stored safely or in a way which was easily accessible. Social distancing was not consistently adhered to.

A follow-up inspection found that good progress had been made but another visit was due to take place.

Dorothea Morrison, Chairman of Trustees, said the home had already implemented changes to address the failings highlighted.

She added: “The Trustees and staff of Gibson House are very disappointed with the Care Inspectorate Report, particularly as our staff at the Home have worked tirelessly to ensure that it has remained Covid 19 free throughout the Pandemic; something to be proud of.

“Gibson House has taken all points on board and are already implementing a plan to resolve fully the highlighted issues.  All the recommendations will be implemented in advance of the review date.”

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A spokesman for Carnbroe Care Home, which was rated weak in every category, said action was taken all address all shortcomings within 72 hours. 

Other care homes which received the lowest rating were Fairknowe in Maybole, run by Mead Medical Services Limited, Burnfoot Care Home, run by West Coast Care Limited, Elm Cottage Care Ltd in Broxburn and South Beach House in Ardrossan.

Care home praised for standards included Northcare Suites in Edinburgh, which was rated very good in all categories and  Erskine Home in Bishopton.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Care Inspectorate inspections take place in care services where potential risks have been identified in collaboration with Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

"Where there are weaknesses, further inspection visits are carried out to ensure these concerns are properly addressed and improvements in the quality of care are sustained.”