Union says talks on Edinburgh care home closures 'little more than box-ticking exercise'

Health bosses' discussions with trade unions over plans to close five city care homes have just been a box-ticking exercise, councillors have been told.
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The proposed permanent closure of Clovenstone, Fords Road, Ferrylee and Jewel House care homes and a switch of Drumbrae care home to complex clinical care by the NHS were announced out of the blue in June by the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, which is in charge of heath and social care.

There was much criticism about a lack of consultation with residents, families, staff or unions before the plans were revealed.

Fords Road care home is on of those proposed for closureFords Road care home is on of those proposed for closure
Fords Road care home is on of those proposed for closure
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And now Greig Kelbie, regional organiser for Unison, which is campaigning to save the homes, has told a full meeting of the city council that the talks which have taken place are still unsatisfactory.

"Any meeting we have held with senior management or with the IJB has been little more than a box-ticking exercise with no detailed information being supplied and many of our questions have remained unanswered."

And he added: "I think there is a real concern that democratically elected councillors may have been treated in a similar manner.”

He said morale among staff in the homes was extremely low. “These people really care about the people they look after and they don’t want to see a closure to the service.”

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Green councillor Melanie Main said the unions had many ideas and a great deal of knowledge to contribute. “It's very disappointing to hear they do not feel they are being heard as they should be."

Labour councillor Gordon Munro said the information which the IJB had given on the closures did not make financial sense.

"Each of the four care homes could have their lives extended by a further five years by investment,” he said. “Clovenstone needs £182,000, Ferrylee £408,000, Fords Road £83,000 and Jewel House £249,000 – a total of £923,000. Compare that to the report saying it will save £1.46 million, but the increased cost of care at home is £3.79m – from a budget that is difficult for us to control and this council has had to throw money at every year because it is underfunded.”

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Fellow Labour councillor Mandy Watt said homes were sitting half empty yet there were waiting lists for places and urged that admissions should resume.

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She said: “It’s a waste of resources that could be used to alleviate difficulties people and their families are facing right now.

“While we're waiting for information that never seems to come – no straight answers to the questions we ask – people in need are sitting on a waiting list. Please can we just get on with providing the care?”

Tory councillor Phil Doggart, a member of the IJB, said corners had been cut in the way the closure proposals had been announced and argued it would be helpful if senior officers involved could be called to a committee to explain why that was.

But he said the issue was not just about care homes but the whole range of care provided. "The IJB has to produce a system that works for the city. The current system is not working, so we have to change it. The decisions facing the IJB are difficult, but we have to look at heath and social care in the round.”

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