Improving care for older people and support for those with dementia is a “personal priority” for the Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon, she has told a conference.

Addressing the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Awareness Week conference in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon said the Holyrood government’s chief nursing officer would oversee the implementation of standards of care for people with dementia, as well as ensuring high standards of care for older people.

Her comments follow Labour leader Iain Gray’s call last week for a summit on the “crisis in care in Scotland”.

The UK’s biggest care home operator, Southern Cross, which runs 98 homes in Scotland, is on the verge of administration.

Two residents of Edinburgh’s Elsie Inglis care home also died recently, one of whom passed away soon after leaving the unit, leading to two police investigations. The home closed soon after that.

Now directly responsible for older people’s care, Ms Sturgeon has also pledged that Health Improvement Scotland, the new scrutiny and improvement body for NHS Scotland, will carry out a programme of inspections at care homes to ensure standards are met.

The Scottish government has published two major documents under Scotland’s first National Dementia Strategy. The first one, Standards Of Care For Dementia, sets out how people with dementia should be treated, with standards being tested before being formally adopted. The second document, Promoting Excellence, is intended to ensure the standards are met by staff.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I consider improving care for older people, whether that means ensuring the implementation of the dementia standards, making sure older people are treated with care and compassion wherever they are and whatever their diagnosis, or better joining up health and social care, to be a personal priority.

“In view of the particular challenges in respect of the care of older people in hospital I have asked the chief nursing officer to oversee the implementation of the dementia standards in hospital settings and to lead a programme of work to give assurance that care for older people in these settings, whether or not they have dementia, is meeting the highest standards of care and compassion.

“Reshaping care for older people is a huge challenge but it is one we must rise to tackle head on.”

Henry Simmons, chief executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said: “We must ensure that all local authorities and NHS boards take their lead from the strategy, and not only protect but invest in quality services for the 82,000 people with dementia in Scotland who so desperately need support.”