Edinburgh care crisis: Only half of plan to convert Drumbrae care home will go ahead

Partial U-turn by health bosses over Edinburgh care home
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Health bosses have done a partial U-turn after saying they could no longer afford to convert an Edinburgh care home to a medical care facility. NHS Lothian now plans to use just half of Drumbrae care home for hospital-based complex clinical care (HBCCC) – but it could mean forking out to continue using a PFI home for other patients.

Drumbrae, which was the city council's newest care home, closed in December 2021 ready for its switch of use, but has remained empty ever since. It only emerged in November that there was a problem after the estimated cost of converting the building had soared from £300,000 to more than £3 million. Then it was revealed NHS Lothian had never even signed the lease. Councillors complained it was a "scandal" that the 60-bed home was lying empty amid a health and social care crisis.

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An update to the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB) which oversees health and social care crisis in the Capital, said NHS Lothian now proposed going ahead with the lease of Drumbrae and providing 30 HBCCC beds on the ground floor. But the original idea had been for Drumbrae to become the main site for HBCCC in the city, taking patients from the ageing Liberton Hospital, which is due to close. And Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP) said using only half of Drumbrae's capacity would not allow the transfers from Liberton to be completed as planned and would mean too big a reduction in the total number of HBCCC beds. It warned: "There is a risk that reducing the bed numbers on this scale would have a significant impact on front door presentations, acute capacity, flow and delayed discharges."

Drumbrae care home closed in December 2021 and has been lying empty ever since.  Picture: Ian Georgeson.Drumbrae care home closed in December 2021 and has been lying empty ever since.  Picture: Ian Georgeson.
Drumbrae care home closed in December 2021 and has been lying empty ever since. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

And the EHSCP proposed that Ferryfield House, a PFI home which NHS Lothian planned to withdraw from in 2024, should continue to be used until 2027. Drumbrae was seen as the lynchpin of the wider review of bed-based care, which aimed to rebalance the variety of care available, boosting nursing and dementia care, increasing intermediate care and reducing HBCCC beds. The report said the retention of Ferryfield would allow a further “pathway review from hospital to community to understand the range of beds in use across the system”. Discussions between NHS Lothian and the EHSCP are continuing.

NHS Lothian has blamed a change in guidance on fire safety regulations, with stricter requirements on evacuation, for the increase in conversion costs and the change of plan on Drumbrae. It said in November last year: “We determined that to carry out the actual level of work required, within just part of the building, would likely cost close to £2m and as such the proposal, at this stage, could not go ahead.”

But the report to the EIJB on Tuesday said: "The estimated cost of the refurbishment of the ground floor of the former Drumbrae care home is £3m. This would be funded via a combination of the monies held in the Integration Joint Board’s reserve (£0.8m) with the balance of £2.2m coming from NHS Lothian."

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EIJB chair, Labour councillor Tim Pogson said he felt “extreme frustration” that despite all the pressures in the health and social care system, Drumbrae was not in use and had not been for more than a year. And Tory councillor Max Mitchell called for more information to be provided to board members and to unions. He said: “There is quite a level of secrecy around a lot of things, there’s not very good information-sharing. I feel I’m not being given information timeously and plentifully.”

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