UK’s largest care home operator facing legal threat over Covid-19 deaths

HC-One operates more than 300 care homes, including Home Farm in Portree, Skye, where 10 residents died.

Advocate with wig
Advocate with wig

The UK’s largest care home operator is facing potential legal action from families of residents who died with coronavirus.

Law firm Leigh Day said it is investigating action regarding HC-One over allegations “systemic failings” at its care homes led to Covid-19 deaths that could otherwise have been avoided.

One of the families involved is that of Colin Harris, one of 10 residents who died during a coronavirus outbreak at the Home Farm care home in Portree, Skye, in May, in which 30 residents and 29 staff tested positive.

Jeane Freeman
Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the Skye home was assessed as ‘effectively a risk to life and limb’ at one point (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

HC-One, which has more than 300 care homes across the UK, operated the home at the time.

Mr Harris’ widow Mandie wants to know what the company knew of the risks to residents from Covid-19 and what it did to protect them.

She also wants answers on the movement of workers between homes and on accepting hospital admissions.

Scotland’s care watchdog the Care Inspectorate launched a court case seeking cancellation of the home’s registration after an inspection in May raised “serious concerns” about the quality of care.

The country’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said inspectors had assessed that at the time “the care home was effectively a risk to life and limb”.

The action was dropped after the Care Inspectorate said “considerable improvements” had been made .

Last week, NHS Highland bought the care home with £900,000 of Scottish Government funding.

The law firm is also investigating the death of a 80-year-old resident during a coronavirus outbreak at an HC-One care home in Nottingham in April, on behalf of their family.

Richard Meeran, a partner at Leigh Day who is representing the families, said it has questions over true scale of coronavirus deaths in privately-run care homes in England and Scotland.

He added the operators of these homes “must account for the quality of the care they provide and whether consideration of profit comes before the safety of their residents and staff”.

An HC-One spokeswoman said: “HC-One is only aware of this proposed action through Leigh Day’s media statement.

“The company understands fully the effect of this unprecedented pandemic on our residents, their relatives and our colleagues who have been caring for them.

“We have utmost sympathy for the distress and loss that has been felt by so many in recent months.”

She added: “As a responsible provider, which pays all UK taxes due and works constructively with regulatory and enforcement agencies, any claims will be referred to our insurers.

“Therefore, it is not appropriate to make further public comment at this time.”

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