Horrified carers slam ‘rationing’ amid funding crisis

Riky Henderson says the move will mean fewer hours of care at home for some people. Picture: Esme Allen

Riky Henderson says the move will mean fewer hours of care at home for some people. Picture: Esme Allen

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HOME care in the Capital will be restricted only to those with a “critical” or “substantial” level of need in a bid to plug a £16.5 million black hole, it has emerged.

Health leaders will turn to voluntary and other community-based providers, as well as “telecare” devices such as personal alarms and remote health monitoring equipment, in an effort to fill the gaps.

But staff today warned the move would see services and job posts axed, and said the plan amounted to “rationing” care.

Vital help packages will be reduced or withdrawn, they added, with 20 care home beds, carer payments and new residential places among a raft of services which face being cut, limited or phased out.

And they warned proposals to “reinforce” eligibility criteria would mean fewer workers and care hours available to individuals, as well as less investment in handrails, stairlifts and other essential home adaptations.

The plans come as fresh figures show the 2015-16 health and social care budget will drop to just over £200m – down from actual expenditure of around £210m in 2014-15.

Kirsten Hey, an occupational therapist and Unison steward for the City of Edinburgh, said: “It’s horrifying – this is rationing care. None of us came into the job to say to people, ‘No, you cannot have care’.

“In 15 years working with the council, I have never seen it this bad. It’s a crisis.

“If the council wants to 
provide a decent service for vulnerable people in Edinburgh, they need to fund it properly.”

New evidence of a financial 
black hole comes after it emerged Peter Gabbitas, the council’s director of health and social care, had gone on annual leave, with junior officials appointed on an interim basis to cover.

He is understood to have come under increasing pressure after work to bring together NHS and care services ran millions over budget.

The £16.5m budget gap currently being faced comes on top of a £5.8m overspend during the last financial year.

Dr Jean Turner, of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “It just sounds like a dreadful shambles. They seem to be saying, ‘Think twice, and think again, before you think somebody should qualify for care’.”

Councillor Ricky Henderson, health and social care leader, said: “Council staff are applying the current eligibility criteria for adult social care more tightly and are seeking to use support from other sources to assist people meet their needs.

“The revised guidance will mean fewer hours of care at home for some people, but should not mean that their needs are not met.”

Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information at NHS Lothian, said: “We need a fundamental redesign of the models of care to support people to live as independently as possible at home or in a homely setting.

“This transformative approach is the real agenda for the Integration Joint Board, the council and NHS Lothian to address the challenges we face.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com