Bed-blocking fears amid sheltered housing closures

Ricky Henderson says he was disappointed by the move. Picture: Jane Barlow.
Ricky Henderson says he was disappointed by the move. Picture: Jane Barlow.
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A DECISION to evict some of the city’s most frail residents from their sheltered housing homes will lead to a deepening of a “crisis” in the Capital’s hospitals and social care sector, experts have warned.

Cairn Housing Association recently announced the closure of five units in Grange Loan, Braid Avenue, Church Hill, Laverockbank Terrace and Columba Road, which provide “very sheltered housing” to more than 40 vulnerable pensioners.

City health leader Ricky Henderson said he was “very disappointed” by the move, but pledged the council would find room for the pensioners, if the proposal to kick them out goes ahead. But with pressure over care home and supported living places at unprecedented levels in the Capital, Cllr Henderson admitted that it “might not be quick or easy” to accommodate the Cairn residents.

The closure has also been seen as a blow to NHS Lothian, which is seeing hundreds of hospital beds each month taken up by elderly patients who are well enough to leave, but have nowhere else to go, often because there is a lack of appropriate housing available.

It comes just weeks after it was revealed the future of three city hospitals were in doubt, with health board chief executive Tim Davison saying he planned to improve care for people in their own homes.

The issue was raised at Holyrood, in a debate sparked by the Evening News, as the plan to review the futures of Liberton, Corstorphine and Astley Ainslie Hospitals came under scrutiny.

Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack said that she had been told by the family of one elderly Cairn resident that they had searched in vain for an alternative. She said: “The Royal Victoria Hospital was closed – a hospital specifically for older people – and it had to be reopened in months because of the short-term capacity problems in the ERI, and there’s a question mark over three more hospitals.

“The closure of the Cairn homes is a timely reminder that it’s not just the health element of health and social care – the social care element is a crisis now.”

A meeting between Cairn and city deputy health leader Cammy Day is due this week. The housing associated said it had taken the “strategic decision” to withdraw from very sheltered housing, the benefits of which include extra wardens, full-time carers, en suite facilities and meals. Closures are expected to go ahead next year.

Professor Alex McMahon, NHS Lothian’s director of strategic planning, said: “We work closely with our social care colleagues from the council to ensure we have plans in place to address any capacity issues.”