Fears about the financial security of care homes in North Ayrshire have been voiced by a Tory councillor.

At the recent full council meeting, Arran member Timothy Billings said: “There is a growing concern about the level of Scottish Government funding to care homes and the financial viability of care homes in Scotland.

“Can the cabinet minister tell me how the health and social care partnership is ensuring that our local care homes remain financially viable whilst also being able to provide appropriate level of care to our vulnerable elderly residents?”

Cllr Margaret Johnson, cabinet member for health and social care, said in response:  “Local authority placements to older people’s care homes are funded from the HSCP budget.

"The weekly rate paid for a care home placement is agreed nationally as part of the National Care Home Contract (NCHC) which has been in place for the last 15 years. 

“This contract is facilitated by Scotland Excel on behalf of local authorities and is negotiated annually between provider representatives and COSLA. In North Ayrshire all placements are funded in line with the NCHC agreed rates for residential and nursing care. 

“Whilst provider representatives, including for example Scottish Care, have publicly communicated their concerns over the adequacy of funding and viability of the care home sector, it is also mutually accepted that the NCHC provides stability for care homes and commissioners."

While Cllr Johnson also looked to highlight that processes are in place to assess the quality of care received.

She continued: “It is the role of the Care Inspectorate as the regulatory body to assess and provide assurance over the quality of care for all registered care services. 

“In North Ayrshire we work closely with the Care Inspectorate and other services to ensure we can support our care providers to provide a good quality of care. 

“The position is closely and robustly monitored, the HSCP has multidisciplinary care home oversight arrangements in place, which were established over three years ago.

"The care home oversight group meets regularly, this allows the partnership and other colleagues to maintain an enhanced level of support and oversight to care homes, ultimately seeking assurance of the quality of care provided. 

“This provides a forum for escalation of any quality of care, safety and sustainability concerns, including financial concerns which may be highlighted by care home providers directly. 

“The partnership facilitates regular care home provider forums and regular formal contractual meetings take place with individual providers, these include finance representatives.

"Whilst focused on quality and standards of care being provided to residents, the meetings have allowed for the development of good working relationships between the care home providers and the partnership’s teams. 

“Providers can raise any issues or concerns they may have at the earliest opportunity which allows the partnership to respond appropriately.”

Cllr Billings asked for his views to be taken on board, arguing that if care homes in this area failed it would be up to the HSCP to pick up the pieces.

Cllr Johnson agreed to meet Cllr Billings to discuss the issue further.