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Operators join forces to represent care sector in Scottish Covid inquiry

Care home operators have joined forces ahead of the forthcoming national public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland to ensure the independent care sector is fully represented.

The new group, Independent Care Homes Scotland (ICHS), comprises 13 operators, which, between them, employ almost 10,000 staff across 155 homes.

The group is calling on other independent operators to join ICHS to help ensure all facets of the independent care sector are fully represented within the inquiry.

The ICHS has already made a formal submission suggesting key areas the inquiry should cover, based on direct experience on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The submission covered issues ranging from the decision to discharge untested hospital patients into care homes, the lack of PPE, testing and equipment, to frequently varying advice, involvement of NHS and employment laws and procedures.

One of the founding members, Renaissance Care chairman Robert Kilgour said the group was committed to playing a full and constructive part in what is expected to be the largest inquiry of its kind ever seen in Scotland.

Mr Kilgour said: “Residents and their families, as well as our selfless and hard-working team members, have paid a terrible price during this pandemic, with enormous numbers of deaths amidst the most sustained, high-pressure environment our sector has ever seen.

“It is absolutely imperative that the direct experiences of those in the care sector are given a meaningful and prominent voice within the inquiry, and given that 75% of elderly care homes in Scotland are operated by independent providers, it is vital that we are at the core of these conversations.

“The areas we must see addressed include Government decisions to empty hospital patients into care homes without any testing in the early days of the pandemic, which had devastating consequences, and the failure to quickly heed industry calls for mandatory, weekly testing of staff.”

The ICHS says it is keen to hear from other independent care home operators, allowing those within the sector to come together to submit collective evidence, expertise and experience.

Kilgour said: “Given that the Scottish care sector was one of those hardest-hit by the pandemic, it would counterproductive if the voices of patients, staff and management were restricted to only a few participants.

“It is of utmost importance that the care sector is not lined up as a scapegoat for things that went wrong during the Covid outbreak in Scotland. It is imperative that the inquiry takes substantial evidence from those on the front-line.

“Only then will we be able to ensure it fulfils its remit of ‘establishing any lessons to be learned from what has happened,’ for the sake of future and current residents, as well as those who have made their careers in the sector.”

The group has retained one of Scotland‘s leading advocates, Duncan Hamilton QC, as well as David McKie of legal firm Levy & MacRae to assist with preparation of the submission and evidence for the inquiry.

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