Sturgeon in Southern Cross talks

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has said the Government will take “any steps possible” to ensure that residents in crisis-hit Southern Cross care homes do not have to move.

Ms Sturgeon met chief executive Jamie Buchan for talks to discuss the situation.

Southern Cross, the UK’s largest care home operator with 31,000 residents, is in “critical financial condition”. Its half-year losses were £311 million.

Last week it said it was cutting the jobs of as many as 3,000 people, including more than 300 nurses, 1,275 care staff, 700 catering staff, 440 domestic staff and 238 maintenance workers.

It said it also planned to cut its annual rent bill from £202.3 million to £137.5 million, and recently announced it would cut the rent it pays to landlords by 30% to try to get some breathing space.

The crisis has raised concerns over the future of Southern Cross residents.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government’s main priority is ensuring continuity of care – that means we will take any steps possible to make sure that all Southern Cross residents remain in their current care homes.

“I have met with Jamie Buchan, chief executive of Southern Cross, today and he has assured me that both quality and continuity of care are of paramount importance to Southern Cross.

“We will work with partners to make sure that they deliver on this promise. Our care regulator will also ensure that quality of care in Southern Cross homes continues to be maintained.”

Criticism of management at Southern Cross care homes has been raised by the social care regulator. Of 49 Southern Cross homes reviewed by the Care Quality Commission since October, it found poor staffing levels at 19 of them.