Private care homes worse 'at all levels' than not-for-profit 

STUC is calling for the Scottish care home estate to be transferred out of private ownership in totality.

STUC report shows private care homes worse than not-for-profit amid calls for care service reform iStock
STUC accused the Scottish Government of “falling short” in plans for transformative national care service.

The country’s largest trade body has deemed the Scottish Government’s approach to the national care service as “untenable” after a new report found large privately owned care homes perform worse than not-for-profit ones at almost all levels.

Launching their report ‘Profiting from care: why Scotland can’t afford privatised social care’, the Scottish TUC (STUC) has accused the Scottish Government of “falling glaringly short” in their plans for a transformative national care service.

The trade union organisation, representing unions from across health and social care, is calling for the Scottish care home estate to be transferred out of private ownership in totality.

Research within the STUC report reveals that Scotland’s large private social care providers are associated with lower wages, more complaints about care quality, and higher levels of rent extraction than public and third sector care providers. 

Under current Scottish Government plans, the proposed national care service would remain “ownership neutral”, embedding a role for the private sector in social care.

The research found that a quarter of care homes run by large private providers had at least one complaint upheld against them in 2019/20, compared to 6% of homes not run for profit.

It also found that in older people’s care homes, staffing resources are 20% worse in the private sector compared to the not-for-profit sector.

The report added that privately owned care homes only spend 58% of their revenue on staffing, compared to 75% in not-for-profit care homes.

The report argues that a transformative national care service must be based on a not-for-profit public service, delivered through local authorities with an ongoing role for the voluntary sector.

Roz Foyer, STUC general secretary, said: “It simply isn’t the case that Scotland can’t afford to buy out private care homes, we can’t afford not to. 

“As it stands, the Scottish Government is falling glaringly short in offering the transformative shake up to social care Scotland badly needs.

“As the national care service bill makes its way through parliament, politicians must focus their attention on the kind of organisations we want to provide care for our citizens, not as seems to be the case just now, the centralisation of commissioning and outsourcing procedures.”

The recommendations have been backed by Care Home Relatives Scotland, a group which was set up during the pandemic and has been working to strengthen relatives rights as a result of care home visitation restrictions during Covid-19.

Catherine Russell, from Care Home Relatives Scotland: “The research findings endorse everything Care Home Relatives Scotland said in our response to the NCS consultation. 

“Our fear is that millions will be spent on upheaval and reorganisation when the priority must be to focus on improvements and with resources on the frontline where they are desperately needed.

“We also share the STUCs grave concerns about the further marketisation of social care and community health services.

“As the report demonstrates, private homes are not the most cost effective or highest quality. They are extremely costly for residents who need to pay and the profit motive tends to drive down staff conditions.

“Scotland can and should find a better, fairer way to do things and this research will be a very useful contribution to that debate.”

Scottish Care has been contacted for comment.