Edinburgh care home closures: Decision postponed until after next year's council elections
A decision on the proposed closure of council-owned Edinburgh care homes has effectively been delayed until after the local elections in May next year, the chair of the board in charge of the Capital’s social care has acknowledged.
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And care union Unison is urging a longer postponement, until 2023, to give staff and residents security.
The Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB) agreed at its last meeting to put almost all business on hold so it could concentrate on dealing with the current crisis in social care caused by a massive shortage of staff. increased demand and the impact of the pandemic.
Board chair Ricky Henderson said although no formal decision had been taken on what to do about the proposed closures, the time needed to prepare and conduct a public consultation and analyse the results meant any decision would realistically fall after the elections.
He said: “We need a good discussion on what this consultation is going to look like because we want to get it right, so a bit of time for preparation, then a minimum of three months for consultation and then time to analyse the outcome and what we do, so you're going to be in the middle of next year I would have thought.”
Plans to close five care homes – Clovenstone, Fords Road, Jewel House, Ferrylee and Drumbrae – were announced in June as part of a wider review of care provision in the Capital.
The EIJB has already agreed to close Drumbrae so it can become a complex care assessment unit operated by the NHS. The other four proposed closures were awaiting a consultation on the future of care in the city.
Unison assistant branch secretary Gerry Stovin said there was uncertainty over when the consultation would happen and what it would cover.
“Nobody's putting date on it, nobody's describing what's going to happen,” he said. “It's a hot potato that nobody wants to touch.”
The union is calling for any decision on the closures to be postponed until 2023 or later.
“We want some security for the staff and the residents,” said Mr Stovin.
And Unison has written to councillors, setting out the case for the pause.
“With the current crisis in homecare and bed-blocking in hospitals, allowing the four care homes to remain open for the foreseeable future will allow them to take in residents to ease the crisis, with the benefit of longer-term security.
"Staff morale following the pandemic is low and the postponement of the proposals would return some security to staff at this crucial time. We need to keep our carers in care and treat them on par with NHS staff.”
The letter also argued the implications of the National Care Service being proposed by the Scottish Government and the effects on the council were not fully understood and legislation was not expected until mid-2023.
Asked about delaying a decision until that point, Cllr Henderson said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up that nothing happened until 2023, but that's not a conscious decision the board has taken.
“After May there will be a new board with their own views as to what the future looks like.”
Cllr Henderson is standing down as a councillor at the May elections.