Edinburgh's Drumbrae care home: Council calls for building to be brought back into use

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Councillors complain Edinburgh health bosses

Councillors have unanimously called for Edinburgh's Drumbrae care home to be brought back into use after lying empty for more than a year.

And they also united in voicing frustration at health bosses over their failure to provide a clear update on the situation. The 60-bed, council-owned Drumbrae care home closed in December 2021 so it could be transferred to NHS Lothian and be converted for hospital-based complex clinical care (HBCCC), taking patients from the ageing Liberton Hospital, which would then close. But health chiefs then decided that bringing the building up to the required hospital standards was too expensive and said the plans could not go ahead. Then it was revealed NHS Lothian had never even signed the lease for the property.

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A report to the full council meeting on Thursday (9 February) from Judith Proctor, chief officer of the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB), said discussions had resulted in "a slightly amended proposal which will see the facility leased to NHS Lothian as planned to provide HBCCC". But no details were given and council leader Cammy Day hinted it may involve the NHS taking over only part of Drumbrae.

Drumbrae care home has been closed for more than a year - ad future plans remain unclear.  Picture: Ian Georgeson.Drumbrae care home has been closed for more than a year - ad future plans remain unclear.  Picture: Ian Georgeson.
Drumbrae care home has been closed for more than a year - ad future plans remain unclear. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

He said: “One of our newest care homes has lain empty for over a year while there's wrangling between the NHS and the council. If the NHS is coming forward saying they might take some of the building but they actually need all of the building, then it is incumbent on all of us, the council, the NHS and maybe even the minister, to get round the table and fund the resource at Drumbrae to get the 60 beds open – and open now. We can't wait for another 12 months, letting people sit in hospital while people argue about a couple of million pounds.”

Earlier, David Harrold from Unison told councillors that information in the report was inaccurate and incomplete. And he said: “Unison has always been clear Drumbrae care home should remain within council hands as a residential care unit.” Asked about the union’s relationship with senior officers over Drumbrae, Mr Harrold said: “Many of the people Unison speaks to are thoroughly decent people, good public servants who are wanting to make a difference. Unfortunately when we get to the top tier of that management structure, the relationship is appalling – information is not shared and in many cases meetings with Unison are not taking place.”

Green councillor Claire Miller said the possibility of only a partial transfer of Drumbrae to the NHS, as mentioned by Cllr Day, had not been shared with councillors or even EIJB members. “Why is it that elected members, who have clearly asked for this information, have not been provided with it? Why are we having to come to full council and repeatedly demand that a care home in our city be reopened? We urgently need to get flow of information started.”

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She said the report referred to amended proposals, but gave no details. “There is nothing which tells us what those amendments are. The most important thing is to call urgently for progress to be made to open Drumbrae and provide the facilities the city so desperately needs. It is a modern council-owned care facility that sits empty during a health and social care crisis and that is outrageous.”

Tory Phil Doggart said it was nearly three years since the decision had been made on Drumbrae, as part of a shake-up of care provision in Edinburgh, and the home had been effectively mothballed all that time. “It is an absolute disgrace. It is a shambles. The whole programme is in disarray. It has been a complete disaster. We should be apologising to the people of Edinburgh for what's going on.”

And the SNP’s Vicky Nicolson joined in the condemnation. She said: “It's an absolute scandal that we've got these 60 empty and sorely-needed public sector beds not delivering for the people of Edinburgh. It’s a scandal it has gone on for so long. We need action now to offer these beds to the people who need them.” And she called for a review of what had gone wrong and why.

Labour councillor Tim Pogson, who is chair of the EIJB, said he appreciated and understood the challenges faced by officers and staff in forecasting future care needs. “Where we’re at at the moment is that assessment of need and how those needs are best met in relation to Drumbrae and across the rest of the care estate is still being assessed and the best response is still being sought – and a bit more time is required on that. As chair, I’m very frustrated by the situation we find ourselves in, I’m very frustrated that a facility that should be providing high-class care for 60 of our older citizens has lain empty for that time. I want to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”