The lives of residents in private care homes are at “grave risk” without more funding, the owner of several facilities across Scotland has warned.
Private care homes have been pushed into the “last chance saloon” by the coronavirus pandemic, Robert Kilgour said, adding that residents and staff are “enduring an absolutely torrid time”.
Mr Kilgour, who founded and runs Renaissance Care, which has 15 properties across the country, said care homes urgently need additional funding or “thousands” more elderly residents will die.
He claimed many local authorities are giving council-run care homes more money per resident than for those they have placed in the independent sector.
He was speaking shortly before Erskine Care Homes confirmed the deaths of 24 residents from Covid-19.
Warning the care sector is “on the critical list”, Mr Kilgour said: “Our brave staff are fighting 24/7 against the coronavirus onslaught, with many working enormous shifts to care for those they consider to be their second families.
“But unless we get desperately needed funding to the front line of this battle, thousands more elderly people in care homes will die across the UK.
“That is the grim reality facing the care home sector, and the Scottish Government and local authorities need to act now.”
He added: “It’s a national scandal and is putting vulnerable people’s lives at grave risk.
“We really are in the last chance saloon if we want to save our social care sector.
“Without proper and fair financial support from the Scottish Government, I fear that many Scottish care homes will close and we will face bed blocking within Scottish hospitals at an unprecedented level.”
Asked about the comments at the daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We are working very closely and carefully with the care home sector and the cabinet secretary has regular discussions with Scottish Care, which is the umbrella organisation that represents the care home sector.
“Whether it’s PPE, testing, the overall financial position of the sector, these are discussions we will continue to have and make responsible and appropriate judgments.
“This is a collective endeavour in which the providers of care homes have to play their full part as well, and I believe are playing the full part, so we will continue to take forward discussions with them on that collaborative basis.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the Government has been providing the private sector with emergency PPE where required and offering clinical support, while healthcare students and former NHS staff returning to the front line during the crisis are being offered to work in the independent care home sector.
“A significant number of those are individuals with experience in professional provision of social care, and they are ready to assist care home providers as well as care at home, where they have staff absences,” she said.
“So if there is a desire on the part of care home providers to have those additional staff, as well as the additional NHS staff that we have on offer for them, then that offer is there.
“Some have already taken it up and if others wish to, then I’d be very happy to ensure that that happens.”