City social care chief: ‘Weak’ service needs time to recover

Edinburgh's new acting health and social care chief has underlined the weaknesses within the service. Picture: John Devlin
Edinburgh's new acting health and social care chief has underlined the weaknesses within the service. Picture: John Devlin
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Edinburgh’s new acting health and social care chief has said it will take more than a year for the crisis-hit service to recover.

The Integrated Joint Board which now runs the key care services was supposed to save £6 million this year, but councillors have heard that there is not yet an action plan in place to ensure it would be achieved.

The department was the subject of a damning report into its organisation by the Care Inspectorate in May which rated five of nine important aspects of service “unsatisfactory” or “weak”.

In response to questions from Conservative group leader Iain Whyte, interim chief officer Michelle Miller admitted she could not be sure of the figures produced by her department and did not yet know whether the correct action was being taken to hit its budget target.

She told the committee: “It’s not possible to say, only being in the job 24 hours, that the activity is the right activity or that there is real accuracy in the figures. We are going to be in recovery for more than one financial year. At this time I am not in a position to reassure you.”

Ms Miller said that reliable figures would be produced by the end of the week and agreed to give councillors an action plan within two months.

Following the committee meeting Cllr Whyte said: “This is a council service spiralling deeper into crisis with no plans for recovery. I sought reassurance that action would be taken and was given none.

“There is absolutely no 
evidence of any benefits from the integration of services with the NHS either in terms of finances, care quality or performance. The savings plan to address last year’s overspend doesn’t even have any business cases available and certainly no implementation plan. This leadership vacuum also casts huge doubt over the recovery plan that was meant to improve services that the Inspectorate said were failing Edinburgh’s older people.”

Ms Miller said: “I have no doubt that fundamentally integration of health and social care is the right thing to do, and I am clear about the opportunities it brings to improve efficiency, quality and value for money. I also articulated to committee my belief that, nationally, the health and social care system for adults is underfunded.

“The integration of two large organisations poses many challenges. Despite these challenges and the improvements required in terms of performance and financial stability, there is evidence of many positive services being delivered to the people of Edinburgh, and it is really important that we don’t overlook the huge effort and commitment from staff.”