Edinburgh care crisis: Two year wait for specialist care package

The true scale of the care crisis facing the Capital has been revealed. Picture: Getty
The true scale of the care crisis facing the Capital has been revealed. Picture: Getty
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A woman with dementia was visited at home by 23 different carers in the space of eight weeks, it emerged today as the true scale of the care crisis facing the Capital grew clearer.

The vulnerable woman was repeatedly left with no help to prepare her food or medication because carers would arrive at different times to those scheduled and left without waiting when no one answered the door. The problems began after she started receving support in January.

In a separate, earlier case, another person was forced to wait more than two years for help after being assessed as needing a highly specialist care package. They had been waiting 768 days for the support to be delivered in January last year. It is not clear exactly how long they waited before the help arrived.

The extent of the care failings in Edinburgh began to emerge today after Scotland’s care watchdog issued one of its worst reports ever into the city’s Health and Social Care Partnership. With demand for home care outstripping supply, hundreds of older patients have been left stuck in hospital because care packages are not being arranged.

There are currently 448 people assessed as needing substantial/critical care and still waiting for a provider, with a further 1,495 waiting to receive their initial assessment to access care services, according to figures released under Freedom of Information in February.

The Evening News reported earlier this year how 95 people died in Edinburgh during 2016 while waiting for the council to provide them with a care package.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western, said: “Failures to provide adequate social care support particularly for elderly people leaving hospital can lead to delays in discharge which in the case of one of my constituents lasted 150 nights.

“This has a blockage effect on the whole of the health system which impacts on elective surgery, accident and emergency discharge and waiting times in GP surgeries.

“We need to improve pay and conditions for the social care workforce to ensure there’s adequate capacity and provision so that people who have worked all their lives are offered a measure of dignity and support in their own homes.”

The partnership only took over responsibility for elderly care in the city last spring, tasked with improving the way health and council services work together to tackle issues like bed-blocking.

One council insider said the care delays were a widely-acknowledged problem compounded by a combination of the setting up of the partnership and ever-tightening budgets.

They said: “There’s been a lot of change and upheaval that I think has contributed to us not being able to tackle a lot of the problems in the system. Perhaps across the country we have to take some responsibility for the fact we have allowed social care staff to be pushed towards the bottom of the scale in terms of pay and conditions.

“Considering the responsibility they have and the type of work they do we all need to have a look at ourselves and come to the conclusion that people working in that sector have to be properly rewarded for the work they do.”

The Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP) says it has already implemented changes and that waiting times have already started to fall.

Steve Burgess, group leader of the Edinburgh Greens, said the “damning” report showed care workers needed to be paid a “Living Wage Plus” of at least £9.20 an hour. He added: “We also want to see voluntary sector play a much larger role in providing social care in Edinburgh, so we’ll be pushing for more joint working with housing associations and charities to help them deliver more care for older people.”

Andrew Parfery, the chief commercial of Edinburgh-based, Care Sourcer Ltd, which was launched last summer to match people seeking care with providers worked on the ‘hospital to home’ trials based at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh last year.

He said; “One of the things that is difficult about what the council does is they have a multitude of systems and processes that are not designed to get someone care quickly.

“That’s everything from a request having to go from somebody who does the assessment in the hospital to someone who has to type it up on the NHS system to then send it across to the council system for them to sit with reablement services to see if they can match it.”

The report found that the partnership, which was established in April 2016, had a higher rate of falls resulting in hospital admissions than the national average.

Commenting on the two-year wait, an EHSCP spokesperson said: “Whilst we can’t comment on the exact details of individual cases, this one was exceptional as the service user was awaiting a very specialist package and required several repeat sessions over this time period. A number of factors contributed to the delay – for example availability of specially equipped housing. The number of people whose discharge from hospital is delayed is a challenge across the country. We are working hard with home at care providers, care homes and hospitals to reduce delays.”

‘Care home search was fraught experience’

ONE woman described how her mother waited weeks for a care home place – but sadly died just days before she was finally due to move in.

Her family’s struggle came before the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership’s creation, but was described as a “fraught” experience.

She said: “My mother was suffering from dementia. My partner and I cared for her for over ten years at her home and for the last couple of years she had carers in twice a day to attend to meals and medication, so we were happy with the care package provided by Edinburgh council. Either my partner or I visited her home every second day to take her for regular doctors’ appointments, shopping and the hairdresser.

“However, following a fall in her house a couple of years ago, her GP said she should go to A&E at the Western as her salt levels were very low.

“After a couple of moves to different wards due to bed shortages she was eventually transferred to the Royal Victoria building for the elderly, where she remained for 12 weeks.

“After yet another fall in her first week, it was immediately apparent that she could not go back home without 24-hour care and after a couple of weeks we managed to speak to a consultant and social work about her future care. We then started looking at possible homes.

“This dragged on for nine weeks and we were getting quite fraught as we were due to go on holiday a month later. Eventually, social services found a place at Cairdean House which was near to where she lived.

“Unfortunately, she died three days before she was due to be moved. She did have a separate room in the Royal Victoria, so perhaps our position was not a bad as some others.”