Edinburgh care cuts: Councillor vows to fight plans to cut care hours and expand private care homes

An Edinburgh councillor has vowed to fight proposed cuts to care hours for older people and expansion of private care homes, warning care should be based on ‘need not profit’.

It comes after a damning report seen by the Evening News revealed 750 people left without care while overstretched services struggle with a backlog. The report by a Scottish Government team sent into Edinburgh's health and social care partnership said the partnership’s duty to carry out an assessment in reasonable time was being “compromised”.

The team, which looked at persistent problems with delayed discharge found that the numbers of elderly and vulnerable people waiting for a bed or care support at home had returned to pre-pandemic levels. Up to 250 beds are occupied daily in the city’s hospitals with patients who are medically ready to leave hospital but there’s no care home place or a home care package available. But the report also highlighted 750 people are waiting for help at home with ‘unmet need’ due to overstretched services.

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Edinburgh Trades Union Council has criticised proposals to cut support as a ‘desperate’ bid to cut waiting lists and warned it will put further pressure on hospitals and other health services.

Ross McKenzie has raised concerns about cuts to care for older people in Edinburgh

Union representatives and activists held a protest on Tuesday (October 18) while a meeting by the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB) held a discussion on the controversial report in private. The move to cut hours is one of the recommendations in the confidential report which claims Edinburgh is ‘over prescribing’ care support hours.

It’s also recommended that private and voluntary sector contribution to care in Edinburgh be expanded with the report stating there’s a ‘risk that the full potential of the other sectors is not fully exploited.’ Other plans are to take on at least an additional 60 care-at-home workers by the end of December 2022 and improving social workers salaries. Unison argued that salary increases should equally apply to social care workers and social care assistants.

Labour councillor Ross Mckenzie criticised the proposals to cut hours on the grounds that Edinburgh has above average compared to other areas. The city councillor for Gorgie stressed care should be provided based on need.

Proposals to cut care hours for older people have been criticised

He said: “Well we’re not going to let them get away with this. We stopped them closing the care homes last year by bringing the decision to the attention of the public. The decisions of the EIJB were not able to withstand public scrutiny when it came to closing care homes and the same will be true if any attempt to cut the hours of care that people receive at home.”

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Councillor Mckenzie said social care is dominated by the private sector, and provision is determined “not by need, but by profitability”. He argues the only solution for NHS Lothian is the expansion of publicly provided social care. But he said: “The board is being asked to consider proposals to cut the number of hours of care at home that people receive, and it's being asked to approve the expansion of the use of beds in private care homes – private care homes that more often than not provide a very poor standard of care, and almost always provide disgraceful pay and conditions to their staff.

“The privatisation of social care has failed, even on its own terms. Public provision of social care based on need is the only solution to delayed discharges, and it’s the only solution to the crisis in social care.” The Labour councillor also said the decision to hold a meeting in private was unacceptable.

He added: "When the Integrated Joint Board decides to discuss a confidential report in private, we have a responsibility to question that. When the contract for the delivery of the Christmas markets was discussed in private here last week, there was a queue of councillors and journalists asking why. Now here’s something far more important being discussed in private. We need accountability on the delivery of social care in this city.”

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Green councillor Claire Miller tried unsuccessfully to persuade the board to discuss the controversial proposals in public rather than private. But Chief Officer of IJB Judith Proctor said there were issues of “commercial sensitivity” and the board were still in the process of developing proposals and a response to proposals.

Edinburgh health and social care partnership said ‘enormous efforts’ are being made daily to meet growing care and support needs. A spokesperson said: “Overcoming challenges long term is a whole system effort in both Edinburgh and right across Scotland. It’s commonplace for HSCPs to work with colleagues across Government, NHS, third and private sectors, and where possible seek assistance, guidance and support, so that together we provide good, reliable, and quality services for those in our care.”