Abbey Court Care home has just had its first Covid outbreak.

The owner can pinpoint how it started and is grateful that it did not have a severe impact.

Eight residents were affected but none, he says, displayed any symptoms, which seems incongruous given the devastating death toll in Scotland’s care homes over the course of the pandemic.

Vaccinations will of course have played a major part and the roll-out of boosters is now underway but Brian Murray, who co-owns the home in Glasgow’s Easterhouse area, believes other factors have kept residents safe.

“Our infection control standards have been in place from day one - the only thing we changed since Covid was carrying out more audits and putting up more hand sanitisers.”

The home’s Covid record is all the more impressive given the fact they only, briefly stopped relatives’ visits, locking down two weeks before most others did in the first week of March.

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The ban on access to relatives as homes battled to contain outbreaks has been one of the most contentious and devastating aspects of the pandemic.

It left many unable to comfort loved ones before they died and led to a campaign for Anne’s Law, set to be introduced by the Scottish Government, which will enshrine their visiting rights in law.

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“A visitor can easily be allowed into the home with safeguards in place,” says Mr Murray.

“It totally infuriates me - we have never refused entry to anyone. We said to relatives, please don’t give up, just because this is happening.

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“We had group chats and emails, we were always in contact but it seems like a lot of homes just shut their doors and ignored people.

“When we locked down a couple of relatives weren’t happy but once we explained why we were doing it, they were fine.

"We were doing video messaging so they could see every day that they were getting treated well.”

The home owner says they have never employed agency workers ("I would do it or my deputy would) a factor he believes helped avert Covid outbreaks and capacity is set at 26.

HeraldScotland:

A study involving 189 care homes in the NHS Lothian area found that in homes with fewer than 20 residents, the chance of an outbreak was 5%, but in homes with 60 to 80 residents the likelihood soared to between 83% and 100%

“Homes should be massive with smaller numbers of people,” he says. “Every home I’ve worked in - these supposedly purpose-built care homes...they just shove as many residents in as they can so they can get more money.

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“We found a home that had closed down and it had 57 residents. We opened the home with 26 because we wanted the bedrooms to be bigger. In a lot of them, we knocked them through and turned them into en-suites.”

Part of the consultation for the new National Care Service is asking providers if they believe new standards should be introduced to drive improvements.

HeraldScotland:

Mr Murray doesn’t think this is necessary but says specialist care can be lacking, particularly for those in the advanced stages of dementia.

He said: “There is nothing wrong with the standards, it’s the attitudes of certain homes that needs to be addressed.

“I think the general belief is, that if your needs change, you just get moved on as if you are a piece of meat.

“We never do that, we nurse people to the end. If someone’s behaviour gets out of hand, instead of actually changing the way you care for them, a lot of place will just say - they need to be moved into specialist nursing care or dementia care.

“But specialist dementia care can often just mean they are drugged up to their eyeballs and don’t move. It’s easier.

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“There are too many people who don’t understand how to care properly. They know how to buy a care home and they know how to get registered with the care inspectorate but they don’t know anything about care.

“You staffing is the most important part of the business. We get dementia training for everyone from our kitchen staff to our laundry staff because everyone has to be part of the same family.”

Mr Murray has worked in the care sector for more than 30 years and said he had worked for many of the providers who have drawn the most complaints over visiting restrictions.

“There are companies out there who are only interested in money,” he says.

Fees at the home are set by the National Care Home Contract with pricing agreed by HSCP and Cosla.

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He said the highest fee for self-funders is £900 a week, which he maintains is considerably lower than other private providers.

“Some places are up to £1600,” he says. “It’s totally unjustifiable, especially when they are claiming it’s for PPE because you can claim all your PPE back from the council.”

“We looked at the bare minimum we would get from the council for each resident.

"We just assumed every resident was going to be council funded and tried to work out, can we survive on that? And the answer was yes, we could.

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“We just wanted the best level of care for residents so we could built a good reputation with relatives and social work.”

He said the home only, currently has one self-funding resident but he has recently had inquiries from another two and says free personal and nursing care allowances need a complete overhaul.

“It’s the way they describe the fees, it’s either nursing or residential but that doesn’t exist any more and they continue to do it.

"There should be more emphasis on ongoing assessment - it’s very much that’s the amount you are getting from day one."

The Herald is backing Alzheimer Scotland’s campaign for fairer care costs for people with advanced dementia.