UK’s largest care home operator faces damages claims over Covid-19 deaths

The UK’s largest care home operator is facing claims for damages from families of residents who died with coronavirus.

PBW Law is bringing a civil action against HC-One on behalf of two families whose relatives died at Home Farm Care Home in Portree, Skye, during a coronavirus outbreak in which 30 residents and 29 staff tested positive.

Meanwhile, law firm Leigh Day said it is investigating potential legal action regarding HC-One, which has more than 300 care homes across the UK, over allegations “systemic failings” at its care homes led to Covid-19 deaths that could otherwise have been avoided.

It is representing the family of Colin Harris, one of those who died at Home Farm, and 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.

Highland councillor John Gordon, whose father John Angus Gordon also died at the Portree home, said: “The situation at Home Farm was appalling but I do not think it is an isolated case.

“I believe that many other care homes in Scotland have also failed to safeguard vulnerable residents like my father at a time when they most needed protection.

“I hope that other families in similar circumstances will contact me so that lessons can be learned before more lives are lost.”

PBW Law is representing Mr Gordon as well as Norma Morrison, whose mother Margaret Morrison died at the home.

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”.

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)

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.

Peter Watson, of PBW Law, said: “The families have already suffered bereavement in the most tragic circumstances.

“Compounding their loss is the fear that their loves ones could have been protected had the proper procedures been in place.”

Richard Meeran, a partner at Leigh Day, 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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