Salmond ‘must act’ over care crisis

First Minister Alex Salmond has been urged to host a summit on a “crisis in care” because of fears that Britain’s biggest care home operator is on the verge of financial collapse.

Outgoing Labour leader Iain Gray said the voices of older and vulnerable people must be heard by parliament in light of the problems at the firm Southern Cross, which has 98 homes across Scotland.

He also highlighted both the evacuation of the Elsie Inglis nursing home in Edinburgh after a resident died and a cut to the care regulator’s budget.

Mr Gray raised his concerns at First Minister’s Questions on the same day public spending watchdog Audit Scotland published a report criticising health providers.

Mr Salmond defended the care inspection regime and said local authorities are ready to ensure “continuity of care” in the event that Southern Cross collapses.

But Mr Gray said: “Audit Scotland today condemns the community health partnerships which are supposed to plan and manage social care. Doctors say these partnerships have spectacularly failed.

“And Southern Cross, who run 98 care homes in Scotland, are on the verge of collapse after financial speculation on the very beds in which our older people are cared for. So, the inspectorate is being cut, the social care system has been declared not fit for purpose and the biggest provider of residential care in Scotland is on the verge of collapse.

He asked: “The First Minister held an emergency cabinet summit on the UK Supreme Court this week; does he not think a summit on the crisis in care is more urgent than that?”

Mr Salmond said: “This is an issue that the cabinet secretary is dealing with daily in conjunction with the UK health department in constant communication with all others involved in a serious issue. It’s true that Southern Cross is on the brink of administration.”

He continued: “Cosla (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities), Scottish Care and the relevant local authorities are ready if Southern Cross does move into administration to make sure there’s a continuity of care of the residents concerned.”