ELDERLY care services in the Capital are facing a budget cut of £5.7 million this year – sparking warnings of “huge damage” to already stretched departments.
Rehabilitation following injury or serious illness, care homes and old people’s day trips are all at risk from the move, staff have warned.
To have money taken out of the service means a reduction in serviceKirsten Hey
News of the cut came as the city’s new health and social care integration joint board (IJB) met for the first time under a system which will see NHS Lothian pool its resources with the region’s four councils.
City bosses admitted they were facing significant funding gaps but stressed they would invest £1.8m specifically to address pressures created by Edinburgh’s ageing population.
They also said that, once the removal of last year’s additional £2.9m injection for care at home is factored in, the net budget cut in 2015-16 would reduce to around £3.4m.
And they insisted that strategies being developed by the IJB would ensure tough savings targets are met while minimising the impact on services.
But union leaders said the multi-million-pound cut would come as a body blow to frontline care workers and lead to elderly residents relying more often on hospitals and GPs.
Kirsten Hey, an occupational therapist and Unison steward for the City of Edinburgh, said: “It’s hugely damaging – to have money taken out of the service means a reduction in service, and the more you take means the more you have to cut somewhere.
“If social care services are being cut, it’s more likely that older people will fall back on their primary care provider, such as their GP.
“Also, it may be that they go into hospital inappropriately and for longer than they should. NHS decisions have put a lot more pressure on social work.”
She added: “Lots of people will rely on the NHS or on their family care providers, who are predominantly women.
“Even in those areas [within the health and social care budget as a whole] where there’s an increase, demand is going up, so in real terms that’s going to be a cut anyway.”
Fresh evidence of pressure on the council comes after city leaders admitted there was a £16.5m black hole in their care budget, leading staff to warn that services could be “rationed”.
Health bosses will turn to voluntary and other community-based providers, as well as “telecare” devices such as personal alarms and remote health monitoring equipment, in an effort to fill the gaps.
Councillor Elaine Aitken, Conservative member for Colinton-Fairmilehead, said: “The reduction in old people’s care budgets makes our job with the IJB far more challenging.
“But that’s the whole point of integration. We have to think radically about what services should be delivered and how they are delivered.”
Council leaders said that ministers had provided £2.6m of additional funding to NHS Lothian which could be used to support elderly care.
A spokeswoman said: “Health and social care in Edinburgh continues to face pressures in light of budget constraints. The Edinburgh Integration Joint Board is actively looking at ways of delivering savings in such a way as to minimise as far as possible the negative impact on people.”