Edinburgh’s social care ‘not in crisis’ says city leader

An elderly man receives care at home. Picture: istockphoto
An elderly man receives care at home. Picture: istockphoto
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COUNCIL leader Adam McVey has denied the Capital’s social care system is in crisis – despite a highly critical report earlier this year and growing waiting lists for home support.

More than 2200 people are either waiting for an assessment for care at home in the Capital, or have been assesed as needing support and are waiting for it to be delivered, according to the latest official figures. Hold-ups in delivering home care are also being blamed for almost 200 people being stuck in hospital when they are well enough to be discharged.

In May, a damning report by the Care Inspectorate exposed a string of failings in the care of the elderly in Edinburgh with some patients forced to wait for 100 days without any support.

Five out of nine important aspects of care provision were rated “unsatisfactory” or “weak”.

And earlier this month the city’s acting health and social care chief warned the service would take more than a year to recover.

City Tory group leader Councillor Iain Whyte said: “We have a system I believe could be described as in crisis.

“It is failing in performance, – delayed discharges at around 200 are one of the worst in Scotland; there are 1500 people awaiting assessment; and almost 800 who have been assessed as needing care at home but do not yet have packages.

“It is failing on quality, as highlighted by the Care Inspectorate report.

“And it is failing on finance, with a £7m projected overspend and no action on the £6m agreed savings half way through the financial year.”

But Cllr McVey said he did not accept the city’s care services were in crisis.

“I do accept there are acute shortages in a number of service areas, that we are not managing to hit the standards that we should be hitting.

“We recognise there is a challenge in finance, we recognise there is a challenge in service delivery. I don’t accept the service is in crisis.”

And he insisted the issues were being addressed.

“We are not trying to brush the issue under the carpet. We are taking the issue seriously and we won’t rest until the issue is fundamentally improved and we are meeting the standards the people of Edinburgh expect.

“We have a roadmap and a way of monitoring how we get where we need to go.

“And we have a clearly identified list of issues which we are now working line by line to address.”

Latest figures reported last week to the Integration Joint Board, which is responsible for the city’s health and social care, show delayed discharges at 186 in July, down from 211 the previous month.

The report said: “The number of people whose discharge is delayed has shown a reduction, but this has not been sufficient to meet the phased targets. Lack of packages of care continues to account for the largest number of individuals waiting (53 per cent), followed by people waiting for care homes.”

The number of people waiting for assessment was 1555, up from 1536 the previous month and 1477 in May when the Care Inspectorate report was published.

And the number waiting for care packages was 773, up from 765 the previous month and much higher than the 568 recorded in May.

The report said the average waiting time for care packages was 114 days.

The key problems were identified as lack of availability of care packages; recruitment and retention of care staff; lack of local authority funded care home places; and a lack of specialist dementia beds.

The report said improvement actions being taken included weekly “star chamber” meetings with local managers, which had helped reduce the length of time people were delayed in hospital.

Earlier this month, Michelle Miller, newly-appointed interim chief officer, told councillors she did not yet know whether the correct action was being taken to hit its budget target.

She said: “It’s not possible to say, only being in the job 24 hours, that the activity is the right activity or that there is real accuracy in the figures. We are going to be in recovery for more than one financial year. At this time I am not in a position to reassure you.”

At last week’s council meeting, Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Robert Aldridge asked whether Cllr McVey said the Care Inspectorate report had indicated political leadership was one of the areas where the council was failing badly.

But he said there had been no change in the political leadership and he asked how that issue was going to be addressed.

And he questioned whether the health and social care budget was achievable.

“£1.1m was transferred to health and social care to enable it to meet the budget commitments that were made by the previous administration. Given that there is a projected overspend after only three months, are you confident the budget this year is achievable? And are any additional measures in place to ensure last year’s problems are not repeated?”

Cllr McVey claimed there had been a change of leadership because it was a new administration and committee structure, even though Cllr Ricky Henderson remained convener.

And he said: “There is a 
forecast overspend for the year, but we are early enough in the process that allows us to take actions to reduce that number and try to get to a point where there are other savings within the service.”

But Cllr Whyte remained critical of the administration’s attitude and the denial there was a crisis.

He said: “I find it astonishing that the council leader takes such a blasé approach to the issue, which seems to me to be the key one that’s facing the council at the moment. “We 
need some action and we need some strong political leadership.

“What we are getting reminds me of that notorious saying ‘Crisis, what crisis?’”

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The number of people whose discharge from hospital is delayed is a challenge across the country. In Edinburgh, the partnership is working hard with home care providers, care homes and hospitals to address these delays.

“Reducing delays is a top priority for us all and we have undertaken a great deal of work to reduce the numbers of people delayed in Edinburgh hospitals.

“We have moved to locality working, shortened the assessment process, and are working closely with hospital social workers and occupational therapists to reduce delays. The rate of delays varies but recently we have seen a sustained downward trajectory from 215 to 186 delays.

“The statistics are complex, for example the number of people waiting for assessment includes people who may already be receiving a support service but requested additional services.”