Edinburgh health bosses promise public consultation on controversial care home closure plan
Health bosses have promised to consult the public over the shake-up of care services which includes proposals to shut five council-run care homes in the Capital.
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But no details have been agreed of the scope, timing or length of the consultation or how it will be carried out.
The Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB), which oversees health and social care, heard arguments against the closures from three trade union deputations before discussing the issue at its meeting on Tuesday morning.
And a rally was held outside the City Chambers by unions and campaign group Another Edinburgh Is Possible to protest at the plans to shut four of the homes completely –Clovenstone, Ford’s Road, Jewel House and Ferrylee – and switch Drumbrae from residential care to complex medical care.
Tuesday’s meeting had originally been due to make a decision on the closures, but engagement with unions, consultation with stakeholders and an impact analysis on the plans had not been completed in time.
These are now due to be presented next month, but a full public consultation could mean a final decision on the proposals has to be put off until the end of the year.
EIJB chair and Labour councillor Ricky Henderson said: "The board is committed to a public consultation exercise.”
But he said they would need to wait for legal advice, which had been sought, on the process involved.
Tory councillor Phil Doggart agreed there should be a public consultation, but asked whether the IJB would carry it out or if the council would conduct it on their behalf. “I don’t think the IJB as an organisation has the capacity to consult – and how will the consultation be managed if it’s being contracted out to a third party?”
Councillor Henderson said: “These are perfectly reasonable questions, but how it would actually be conducted, what the parameters would be, what the detail would be I don’t think we’re in a position to make a decision on because we don’t have the advice. I think as long as we give a commitment in principle at this stage, then we need to analyse the detail of the advice and hopefully that will clarify the situation for us. As you say, we may well commission anther party to do it on our behalf if we don’t have the in-house capacity to do it.”
Councillor Doggart said if the board made the decision on a consultation next month, then a three-month consultation period would last until the end of the year which would “mess up” the timelines originally proposed for the closures.
Unison assistant branch secretary Gerry Stovin said: “We welcome the consultation – the public need to be consulted on this. What we need to watch is the questions that are asked – because, as everybody knows, the questions asked can skew the results one way or another.
"We will work our hardest to get the public involved and get as many people to respond. And Unison will promote the retention of public services in the way of residential and nursing care homes in Edinburgh as far as we can.
"If the consultation runs up to Christmas we will campaign right up till then to try and get a commitment for these care homes to be replaced.”