Skip to main content

Nursing Homes

Volume 264: debated on Wednesday 18 October 1995

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to tighten up the inspection procedures for nursing homes in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [36038]

Health board general managers are funding a project to produce national standards for the registration and inspection of nursing homes.

I am not wholly satisfied by that answer. May I ask the Minister something specifically about Orchard House nursing home in my constituency? In doing so, I remind him of a "Front Line Scotland" television programme that exposed serious problems with the management administration and with the treatment of residents in that home—so much so that Lanarkshire health board conducted an inquiry. Apparently, it was so terrified by the result of its inquiry that it is now refusing, claiming that it is the result of legal advice, to make that report public.

As the local Member of Parliament, I hope that the Minister agrees that the people have a right to know what happens in nursing homes when they close the door and leave their relatives after visiting time.

Is the Minister also aware that I am reliably informed that the police are interested in investigating some of the happenings in that nursing home at that time? Will he therefore initiate an independent inquiry—independent of the Lanarkshire health board, which is only investigating its own inspection record—and serve the public interest so that people are confident that they can be looked after in nursing homes? We are caring—

Order. I have been tolerant enough. The hon. Gentleman's subject might be more suitable for an Adjournment debate. I think that the Minister has got the gist of the hon. Gentleman's question and I am sure that he can give a reply.

Yes, I do have the gist of it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State understands that the Lanarkshire health board has completed its inquiry into the standards of care at Orchard House nursing home and that the necessary follow-up action is now under way. A decision about the report's publication is a matter for the board as the registration authority. I can announce this afternoon that my right hon. Friend has asked the social work services inspectorate to examine community care assessments of older people with complex needs within Lanarkshire, the decisions arising from those assessments and the choices made available. We have made a commitment that users should be able to choose their residential care or nursing home care. We are determined to ensure that that policy of choice is in place.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there are many nursing homes and residential homes of the highest quality in Scotland which are very much welcomed by those who reside there? Does he agree that those residents are concerned about the capital limit above which they pay the full fee? Will he have discussions with his right hon. Friends to see whether that limit should be raised in the near future?

Yes, I shall certainly pass on my right hon. Friend's concern to the Chancellor. My right hon. Friend is right to praise many nursing homes throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. National guidelines on nursing home client groups have been issued and we expect boards to comply with them.

Does the Minister agree that there should be tighter inspection of nursing homes, which are increasingly being run by private sector health care companies which give priority to taking profits out of the homes rather than ensuring that the best nursing care is available in the homes? Does he accept that while, for the moment, Ministers can sit there smugly choosing to put public money into the pockets of their pals in the private sector, a day of reckoning is at hand when they and their kind will be swept away in a deluge of votes and a Scottish parliament, elected by the Scottish people, will set about the task of restoring to robust health a people's health service that is run for the people, not the profiteers who cluster around the Tory party?

If so, the hon. Gentleman should send in direct evidence and I shall look at it. Under the Nursing Homes Registration (Scotland) Act 1938, health boards in Scotland have a statutory responsibility to visit and inspect all nursing homes in their area at least twice a year. If they do not do carry out that duty, they are in contravention of the Act. They have the power to intervene and close a nursing home if it does not meet the proper standards. It is right that the highest standards should be met—

The hon. Gentleman says public funds—we are providing more than £4,000 million for the national health service in Scotland and it is right that it should be given the highest priority.