The Democrat opinion 

Secretive health boards and councils ignore the democratic process


Langcraigs residential home for elderly people at Gooseholm, Dumbarton.

Dumbarton, January 28, 2018 – News is something someone somewhere does not wish to see printed. All the rest is merely advertising.

Perhaps that is why the SNP administration on West Dunbartonshire Council do not wish to avail of the offer from The Democrat to send us their media releases and contribute quotes on contentious matters coming before the council?

And the Health and Social Care Partnership; NHS Glasgow and Clyde and the Council itself are usually only prepared to co-operate fully with the media when there is some “good news” that reflects well on them.

We know the Council blundered badly and could not have been best pleased when they said they had checked out the purchasers of Langcraigs old people’s home at Gooseholm.

And Cllr Iain MacLaren expressed publicly the opinion that this company, Meallmore, were the ideal people to be taking over the home.

It was obviously a sore punch on their political noses when we revealed that the company’s track record in this field was appalling.

We drew blood when we wrote this: “Did West Dunbartonshire Council and the associated Health and Social Care Partnership do any research into the background of the care home company to whom they have sold the former Langcraigs Residential Home at Gooseholm, Dumbarton, for the knockdown price of just £1 million?

All they had to do was Google Meallmore’s name into their computer to discover this item that appeared on BBC Scotland’s news programmes last year:


Langcraigs old people’s home – sold for £1 million.

An Aberdeenshire care home has apologised after an elderly resident was left severely bruised from a fall.

It is believed Jill Symmonds, 78, fell from the toilet while suffering a seizure at Sunnybank Care Home, Cruden Bay.

Mrs Symmonds’ family claims that no-one from the care home called to let them know about the incident.

Meallmore Ltd, which runs the care home, said the lack of contact was “unacceptable”.

Mrs Symmonds’ granddaughter, Emma Stephen, published a Facebook post condemning the incident, which has been shared more than 1,000 times.

In the post, she said her family did not find out about the fall until nine hours after Mrs Symmonds had been taken to hospital, and even then, they were only told after calling Sunnybank themselves.

She also said her grandmother, who suffers from dementia and epilepsy, had previously broken both her legs in separate incidents due to being left alone on the toilet.

The fall left Mrs Symmonds with two black eyes and severe bruising around her face.

 Silent councillor Iain MacLaren and Mrs Jill Symmonds – badly bruised and traumatised while in care home.  Picture by Esther Stephen

Unfortunately, this is not the only record of shocking incidents at this company’s care homes.

I flagged up the situation to Councillor Jim Bollan, who voted against Langcraigs being sold to Meallmore.

The Renton councillor was shocked and horrified by what he read on the internet.

He said later: “Quite apart from the SNP Council passing up the opportunity to use this site to build council homes on, it is astonishing that the Health & Social Care Partnership (Quango) have approved this company Meallmore as being fit a proper to take care of elderly residents.

“A look at their record in the care field is quite disturbing. A 91-year-old resident attacked by another resident in a Meallmore home in Inverness, receiving nine injuries to their head.

“A 32-year-old with mental health issues lay dead for up to a week in their flat while being cared for by Meallmore care staff.

“A resident with Parkinson’s humiliated and bullied by staff at a residential home in Aberdeen.

“How the H&SCP can approve this organisation to take care of some of our most vulnerable elderly residents beggars belief.

“This decision to sell this land to this company needs reviewed, before legal documents are signed.”

At the meeting where the decision was made, Councillor Bollan labelled the proposed £1million sale of Langcraigs as scandalous.

He criticised West Dunbartonshire Council for centralising services then allowing the private care sector to move in and “make a profit from the care of our elderly”.

Council officers recommended that the authority’s infrastructure, regeneration and economic development committee approve the sale of the home, which closed earlier this year.

The reason given is that there is still a requirement for more care home beds locally.

A member of the new West Dunbartonshire Community Party, Cllr Bollan, who has criticised the centralisation of care home services since plans were first considered, said: “This proposal by the health and social care partnership stinks to high heaven and lays bare the need for the two 90-bed care homes being built by the council.

“Once more people have been duped into believing the argument that big is better and the centralisation of care services for the elderly is good for them, only for it to be thrown back in their face by allowing the private care sector to take over Langcraigs and make a profit from the care of our elderly. Scandalous.”

Langcraigs residents were moved to the new £10 million Crosslet House, which also replaces Willox Park and Dalreoch House.

The home, which boasts a modern cinema room, outdoor terrace, internet rooms, gardens, hair salon and nail bar, provides 84 beds for elderly residents, particularly those with dementia.

The report to the council meeting said: “The health and social care partnership consider that there is sufficient demand in the area for a further care home and of the three currently closing Langcraigs presents the best opportunity to permit refurbishment and expansion.”

The council started marketing Langcraigs in March, setting a closing date in mid-June.

Two offers were received and the £975,000 bid by Meallmore, who are proposing a 32-bed facility with single bed en-suite units, was identified as the preferred option. The other bid was made by a residential developer for £1.02million. The report says Meallmore’s terms are more agreeable due to an early entry date as the council remain liable for maintenance, security and insurance of the site as well as non-domestic rates while the building lies empty.

While Meallmore’s terms may more agreeable to the council, one is left wondering about their operating practices.

This is an edited extract from a report from the Daily Mail on-line:

A care home worker played lewd tricks on a resident, telling a colleague it was ‘just a bit of fun’.

Clarisa Bartolome and another worker terrified the woman in their care so much that she began to wet the bed and feared nights when they were on duty, a hearing was told.

The resident, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, was subjected to ‘disgusting’ behaviour by the pair, who also pelted her with jelly babies.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in Edinburgh heard evidence against Bartolome and another member of staff, who was not identified.

The alleged incidents happened between 2010 and 2013 when Bartolome was a nurse at Crimond House Care Home, in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.

The private home, run by Meallmore Ltd, specialises in caring for patients with dementia or learning disabilities.

Rosemary Cowe, a care worker at the same home, described Bartolome’s behaviour as ‘disgusting’.

She said the nurse and the other worker played lewd jokes on four separate occasions. They laughed and claimed ‘it was just a bit of fun’. Mrs Cowe told the hearing: ‘I was on night shift work when I saw what happened to the resident and I totally thought it was inappropriate behaviour.’

On another occasion, according to the witness, the resident had sweets thrown at her. She said the patient ‘always had a bowl of sweets just as you came into the room and they started giggling and chucking sweets at her’.

After throwing a black jelly baby, one of the pair had told her ‘there’s a black man for your night’. The resident had ‘told them to stop it’.

According to Mrs Cowe, the incidents had ‘a serious set of effects on the resident’.

The patient, who has since passed away, ‘never used to wet the bed’, she said, but after the incident she began to do so and feared the night shift when Bartolome and the other worker were there. 

Now, I do not know what local people think of these things which have happened when Meallmore Limited, who have care homes not just across the country in Scotland but in England too.

As for this company now taking over the Langcraigs Care Home in Dumbarton, I can just imagine.

The recommendation for this came from the West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership.

This is the same organisation that recommended Dumbarton GP Dr David Neilson, should have his practice terminated for an administrative error – despite a petition signed by 1200 patients from his 2000 plus panel asking them not to.

These revelations do nothing for their credibility as a responsible agency answerable to the public.

How can the Health and Social Care Partnership explain this? Why did staff in the Neilson practise received a text message on Friday, March 31, stating that “the health board will assume your contracts as of 1 pm on Monday” when Dr Neilson had been officially informed that the deadline for the decision on whether or not the HSCP was taking over the practice was not until 1 pm on Monday, April 3? When they enquired about this, staff were told it was none of their business. They were also told not to speak to the press and no account was taken of their protestations over Dr Neilson not being allowed to tender for his own practise.

As for the council, one wonders how they manage to sleep at night.

Was there a response to these revelations at the time? Not a cheep.

Cllr Iain MacLaren and the Council have said the very minimum or stayed silent. Why? We have no idea for the simple reason they have never told us. I am this week delighted to report that Scotland’s secretive public bodies are to be the subject of an inquiry to be undertaken by the Holyrood parliament’s Health and Sport Committee.  One senior journalist colleague, Dorothy Grace Elder said: “This is a chance to protest about the secretiveness we encounter regularly from Scottish health boards. Secrecy is routine, secret squirrel mode over items small and large. Everything goes through PR departments with ridiculous delays and key specialists are usually blocked from talking direct to the media.”

The inquiry is into the effectiveness of corporate governance in NHS Boards. This is the third and final stage of its wider inquiry into NHS Governance which has also been looking at staff and clinical governance.


The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh.

In this stage, the Committee will assess if NHS boards follow the key principles of good corporate governance. It will draw upon Audit Scotland’s ‘Role of Boards Report’ and the Scottish Government’s ‘On Board’ Guidance. The Committee will look at the structures and processes for decision making, accountability, control and behaviour at senior levels of NHS Scotland. The Committee will be issuing a survey to each member of the NHS territorial boards to encourage board members to share their views and experiences. To widen that perspective, the Committee is calling on individuals and organisations to share their thoughts on how NHS boards work and make decisions. The Health and Sport Committee would like to know:

  • Do you trust NHS Boards to make decisions that are in the best interests of the public?
  • Are NHS board decisions open and transparent?
  • How accountable do you feel NHS boards are?
  • How effective are NHS boards at delivering health services and improving the health of their population?

Neil Findlay MSP, Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, said: “For the next stage of the inquiry, we are looking at leadership in the NHS as this underpins the delivery and effectiveness of staff and clinical governance. The Committee would like to hear from health professionals, staff, patients, carers and other members of the public to help us explore key principles of corporate governance in the NHS. We want to understand how well NHS Scotland’s policies and systems are operating and learn about its relationships with stakeholders. We want to understand if it is indeed delivering ‘good governance’ and supporting a culture of improvement”.

The deadline for written evidence submissions from the public is Wednesday 7 February 2018.


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