Edinburgh health chair steps in amid concern over engagement and consultation over care homes
The chair and vice-chair of the body in charge of health and social care in Edinburgh are to lead future talks with unions over controversial care home closures after criticism about poor communication by management.
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Labour councillor Ricky Henderson, who chairs the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board [IJB], and vice-chair Angus McCann will also work with management on formulating the public consultation exercise over the closure plans and keeping board members updated.
The moves were agreed during a three-hour discussion of the plans to close five council-run care homes as part of a wider review of care provision in the city.
The board approved the closure of Drumbrae care home and its change of function to an NHS critical care assessment unit.
But a decision on the other four homes – Clovenstone, Fords Road, Ferrylee and Jewel House – has been deferred because of the planned consultation. The four buildings are said to be no longer suitable.
Unions had previously claimed any meeting with senior management was “little more than a box-ticking exercise”.
SNP councillor George Gordon told fellow board members: “Councillors have been receiving quite lot of emails from residents and care workers at Drumbrae.
"My understanding is they are being invited to various meetings where they are being told rather involved in meaningful debate.”
And he asked union representatives making a deputation to the meeting what barriers there were to engagement and communication.
Graeme Smith of Unite said: “The ongoing meetings have not been particularly fruitful and access to information is not particularly open.”
And Gerry Stovin of Unison said: “The consultation and work we do with the council is far superior – you just can’t compare it to the meetings and information from the IJB. That’s what happens when you don’t have accountability.
“The meetings have been very, very poor. We've asked for information and everything takes so long.
"Nothing is discussed in any detail between one IJB meeting and the next.”
Officials told the board there were meetings with the unions every week and they shared the information they could and answered questions to the best of their ability.
There was much criticism over a lack of consultation with staff, unions, residents and families when the closure plans were first unveiled in June, but now the board has promised as comprehensive a consultation as possible.
However, Des Loughney of Edinburgh TUC, urged the IJB to ask the council to carry out the consultation for them.
He said: “After what happened earlier this year, we do not have any confidence a consultation process run by the IJB will address trade union and public concerns. The IJB seems solely concerned to persuade the public to accept its proposed plan.”
Cllr Gordon said he was concerned about the governance of the review and suggested the chair and vice-chair might get more involved.
And Green councillor Melanie Main proposed they should also meet regularly with the unions and the IJB’s lead officials, saying: “Leadership from the chair and vice chair could be really helpful in that area.”
Cllr Henderson said: “Angus and I will take on responsibility for working with management leads on how the consultation exercise is going to be formulated and also contacting the unions and setting up a semi-formal arrangement with them to maintain that communication route.”